In 1956, President Eisenhower signed into law the Federal-Aid Highway Act that created the Interstate Highway
program and the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to fund 100% of the program with existing federal gas tax. In the mean time, the IRR program that Congress established on May 26, 1928, by Public Law 520, continued to receive funding through BIA appropriations.
Since the establishment of the HTF, the federal transportation role expanded to include grant programs to address other transportation, societal, and environmental goals. Congress tagged the HTF to fund these grants and programs where, in example, the federal transit program is currently grabbing 15% of the HTF.
In the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) of 1982, Congress placed the IRR program under the Federal Lands Highways agency to receive HTF funds. A renewed Memorandum of Agreement with FHWA and the BIA-DOT established FHWA oversight of the BIA-DOT IRR administration.STAA established an allocation funding formula for tribes based on IRR road inventory cost-to-improve, land base, and tribal population. Reservations in Oklahoma
and a majority of Alaska
are non-existent so transportation funding was greater for reservation tribes based on this new tribal allocation funding formula.
An Oklahoma delegation negotiated implementing STAA and garnered an Oklahoma exception where the BIA-DOT allowed Oklahoma tribes to generate 100% funding with county roads within their road inventory that previously been constructed or maintained with federal funds. In addition, there was a 2% growth cap on all tribal road inventories.
In December 1991, President Bush signed into law the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). This changed the IRR funding formula to include two elements of the IRR road inventory and tribal population. ISTEA also created the IRR Program Coordinating Committee (IRR-PCC) with representatives from the 12 BIA regions. The IRR-PCC advises and suggests policy on a consensus basis.
Congress enacted the highway reauthorization bill the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century or TEA-21 June 9, 1998 and signed by President Clinton. It expired September 30, 2003. TEA-21 expanded the IRR program to include a set-aside that created the tribal bridge program, created the Tribal Transportation Allocation Methodology (TTAM) a new funding formula using the federal “Negotiated Rule Making” process to establish rules for implementation, and expanded involvement on State transportation planning. Although expiring September 30, 2003 there were continuing resolutions until Congress passed SAFETEA-LU the highway reauthorization bill.
On August 10, 2005, President Bush signed into law SAFETEA-LU. This legislation opened doors for all tribes with a Negotiated Rule Making clause. The Negotiated Rule Making Committee removed the 2% growth cap on all tribal road inventories and allowed Oklahoma
to generate 100% funding from all county roads in their road inventory regardless of previous funding history.
SAFETEA-LU also allowed tribes to directly contract with the FHWA for funding and their own program oversight. Tribes assume the position as the Secretary of the Interior enhancing self-determination and self-governance. The Osage Nation pursued direct contracting and entered into an agreement with the FHWA in June 2009.