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NENAHNEZAD – A public hearing here on Monday focused on proposals for road projects that seek federal funding under a program designed to help transportation planning and implementation on tribal lands.

The Federal Highway Administration manages the Tribal Transportation Program, which provides funding under its Tribal Transportation Improvement Program for tribes to complete planning, design, construction and maintenance of highways and bridges.

As part of the TTIP process, tribes develop and submit a list of eligible projects each year.

Proposals for the Navajo Nation can be for projects within the Northern, Eastern, Central, Fort Defiance and Western agencies.

The list receives approval from the Navajo Nation Council's Resources and Development Committee, which serves as oversight for NDOT.

About 10 people attended a public hearing at the Nenahnezad Chapter house on Monday to learn about the draft listing for the 2019 TTIP.

Karen Benally, department manager for NDOT's Department of Planning, said TTIP projects are community based, meaning input was provided from chapter governments.

Benally said proposals for projects are reviewed and prioritized by shovel readiness before inclusion on the draft TTIP list.

In prior years, TTIP projects focused more on preserving existing roads, including paving and maintenance of dirt roads, especially those that are used as bus routes or provide access to chapter houses.

NDOT altered its focus this year to develop a draft list that includes projects for bridges, chip seal work at airports, bus stop construction, sidewalk repairs and shared trail use, Benally said.

"A lot of our roads are in dire need of safety improvements, such as signage, stop lights, lighting, rumble strips and repairing of shoulders," she said. "We see the need that is out there are we strive to make sure these projects are needs based."

There are 68 projects listed on the draft TTIP list for chapters throughout the Navajo Nation. The draft list shows 15 projects, varying from pavement to bridge work, in 11 chapters for the Northern Agency.

The final list of projects is presented by NDOT to the Navajo Nation Council's Resources and Development Committee for input and approval.

In addition to sharing information about the draft list, attendees listened to information about work underway by NDOT and how federal funding is divided across tribal lands.

There are 14,168 miles of roads on the Navajo Nation that are managed by the tribe, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, states and counties.

The tribe received $54 million in funds from the Tribal Transportation Program in fiscal year 2018.

Darryl Bradley, principal civil engineer for NDOT, said the amount is divided among operations and planning, road maintenance and safety projects, preliminary work, and construction.

Copies of the draft list for the 2019 TTIP are available on the Navajo Division of Transportation website, navajodot.org.

Comments can be submitted by email at TTIP19@navajodot.org or delivered to the NDOT building in Tsé Bonito.

The deadline for comments is Sept. 7.

Additional presentations will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday at the Crownpoint Chapter house and on Friday at the Chinle Chapter house in Chinle, Arizona.

For more information about the draft list, contact the Department of Planning at 505-371-8307.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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