Carper Introduces Legislation to Address Disparities in Federal Transportation Infrastructure Investments for Native American Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the United States honors National Native American Heritage Month and renews its commitment to support public safety, health and quality of life in Native American communities, today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced the Promoting Access to Tribal Health, Wellbeing, and Youth Safety (PATHWAYS) Act. This legislation that would establish a new program within the U.S. Department of Transportation to oversee federal investments and projects focused on improving public safety and promoting public health in Tribal communities.

“Everyone in this country deserves reliable options to travel safely from one place to another. Everyone deserves roads that connect us to each other and expand our horizons. But, the sad truth is that not everyone in this country has safe, reliable roads that foster connections and expand opportunities. This is especially true in Native American communities, where decades of federal underinvestment in transportation infrastructure have led to worse quality of life and disproportionately higher rates of road traffic fatalities,” Senator Carper said. “In many communities within Indian Country, run-down roads are not merely an inconvenience—they create an obstacle for daily life and put lives at greater risk. Unsafe and unreliable infrastructure makes it harder to get healthy groceries, arrive safely to school or find new employment opportunities.”

The PATHWAYS Act would create a new federal PATHWAYS program focused on reducing traffic-related pedestrian fatalities in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, where unintentional injury—including traffic-related fatalities—is the number one cause of death among people aged 1-44, and the third cause of death for people of all ages.

The PATHWAYS Program would authorize the Department of Transportation to carry out projects aimed at improving public safety and health in Tribal communities—from projects that expand options for non-motorized forms of transportation, such as walking and biking, to projects that ensure students and individuals with disabilities have safer routes for critical services, such as schools and hospitals.

“Inadequate transportation options in Indian Country reinforce barriers to education, economic opportunity, and quality health care. And, as road fatality rates in Indian County continue to climb, it has become increasingly clear that the transportation crisis is also a public health crisis. It’s time the United States honors its treaty and trust responsibility to Native American communities by addressing its decades of federal neglect and underinvestment in transportation infrastructure. By creating this new PATHWAYS program within the U.S. Department of Transportation, we can prioritize projects that improve public safety, public health, and quality of life and economic opportunity in Indian Country.”

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senator Carper in introducing the legislation.

A one-pager with additional background about the legislation can be found here.

The full text of the legislation can be found here.