November 30, 2017
Senate Passes John P. Smith Act to Improve Safety on Tribal Roads
John Smith when he testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in April of 2015.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) praised the U.S. Senate for passing his legislation to increase the safety of roads throughout Indian Country.
The John P. Smith Act (S. 302), cosponsored by Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), streamlines the permitting process for tribal road safety projects and requires the Department of the Interior to work closely with tribes to complete permitting and approval processes in a timely manner.
The bill is named after the late John P. Smith, former director of the Department of Transportation for the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes of the Wind River Reservation.
“Tribal roads are some of the most dangerous and deadly in the country. With the Senate passage of the John P. Smith Act, we’re now one step closer to fixing these neglected roads and ultimately saving lives,” said Barrasso.
“This legislation couldn’t have a better namesake. Wyoming’s John Smith was a life-long advocate for transportation safety who earned respect across the country—including at the White House. John brought tribal, state and local leaders together to improve safety on the Wind River Reservation. We couldn’t have passed this bill without John’s support and expert testimony before the Senate in years past. I look forward to the House passing this bill soon and adding to John Smith’s already impressive legacy of improving lives across Indian Country.”
Nationwide, just 17 percent of tribal roads were deemed acceptable by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 70 percent of tribal roads remain unpaved, and 14 percent of bridges are structurally deficient. The Centers for Disease Control lists motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death for Native American children.
On April 22, 2015, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing on the issue titled: “Tribal Transportation: Pathways to Safer Roads in Indian Country.”
During his time as chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Barrasso championed tribal road safety in the Senate. The highway law, passed in December 2015, included provisions from the John P. Smith Act (formerly known as the TIRES Act) that substantially increased funding for the Tribal Transportation Program through fiscal year 2020.