Navajo Route 20 and $3 billion road infrastructure package under review by Budget and Finance Committee

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On May 3, the Budget and Finance Committee received an update report regarding Navajo Nation road infrastructure projects, including Navajo Route 20, which was used when Highway 89 collapsed outside of Page.

In 2012, the Navajo Nation entered into a Direct Federal Highway Funding Agreement with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration through a Naabik’íyáti’ Committee resolution, which enabled the Nation to manage their own Tribal Transportation Program and administer highway infrastructure funding and projects.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs generally oversees the Tribal Transportation Program, however, the agreement allows the Nation to assume all duties and functions of the program and the Navajo Nation Division of Transportation (NNDOT) was delegated to develop a road maintenance schedule and listing of road infrastructure projects.

BFC member Council Delegate Tuchoney Slim, Jr. (Bodaway/Gap, Coppermine, K’ai’Bii’Tó, LeChee, Tonalea/Red Lake) raised concerns regarding the N20 road that begins at Gap and runs through LeChee that allows access to the city of Page, and was utilized when a part of Arizona Highway 89 collapsed.

“What happened to that road funding?” Slim asked. “It was for a permanent structure road in that area. When Highway 89 collapsed, it was used as an emergency road and was not conditioned for heavy traffic, and big trucks still use that road. It’s ready for another chip-seal of the cracks.”

Slim said the collapsed road area on Highway 89 has since been repaired, but because of heavy traffic on NR 20, it has resulted in road damages such as cracking and substantial wear-and-tear to the road. He recommended that the transportation division also carry out a road stabilization procedure to the NR20 road.

According to the report, NNDOT gathered information and created a proposed $3 billion road infrastructure package along with Navajo leadership, and reached out to congressional leaders in Febuary 2017. It states that the transportation package is a comprehensive plan that took several months to compile in hopes that it could be added to President Donald Trump’s proposed infrastructure stimulus plan.

BFC member Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie (Baca/Prewitt, Casamero Lake, Counselor, Littlewater, Ojo Encino, Pueblo Pintado, Torreon, Whitehorse Lake) inquired about the backlog of the Tribal Transportation Program’s road maintenance and construction projects and questioned how the division would aid chapters with their road infrastructure projects.

“Part of your job should be to help out the chapters on the roads they are working on,” Tsosie said. “I realize you devote little time to it, but how can you increase aid such as more time for chip sealing worn roads. You guys also need to seriously fight against (Navajo) permittee’s objections. It’s crazy that one permittee can hold up a project — it is not their land. It belongs to everybody. Costs escalate while the project just sits there waiting.”

Tsosie requested that NNDOT provide an update report to the Naabik’íyáti’ Committee of the proposed Navajo Nation $3 billion road infrastructure package and stated that Navajo leadership should have an opportunity to review the proposed road projects listing.

BFC members voted 3-0 to accept the report.

Information provided by the Navajo Nation Office of the Speaker

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