New ADOT agreements with Arizona tribes make project funding easier

A recent change in the Arizona Department of Transportation’s contract language with tribal governments makes it easier to partner on transportation projects.

Collaboration with other governments can be complicated, especially with sovereign nations for decades that required if ADOT wanted to work with a tribal government, the tribe had to agree to a “waiver of limited sovereign immunity,” according to a press release.

The waiver required the tribe to take any mediation on a project to the state’s courts instead of the tribe’s own courts, resulting in many projects never happening because tribal governments were unwilling to agree to that language, the release stated.

“The Arizona Management System challenges every ADOT employee, everywhere, to identify ways to improve our value to customers,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said in a prepared statement. “This contract language was getting in the way of a lot of essential projects, so we asked, ‘Why?’ It turned out we could get rid of it with minimal risk to ADOT and to taxpayers.”

One improvement with the change is a new agreement with Arizona’s tribes regarding transfers of federal funding to the Tribal Transportation Program, which is how Arizona’s tribal governments receive transportation funding, the release noted.

Previously, local transportation projects on tribal land would be funded and administered the same way that ADOT administers local transportation projects with other communities, with ADOT overseeing every part of the process including contractor selection, design phase and construction, the release added.

The new language in agreements enables ADOT to transfer that responsibility to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Federal Highway Administration or tribes, saving ADOT time and resources.

ADOT’s tribal liaisons helped improve the contract language between ADOT and the tribal governments working with leaders including the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona.

“The Inter Tribal Council of Arizona was pleased to assist in the coordination of efforts that resulted in the amended contract language,” said Maria Dadgar, executive director of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona in a prepared statement. “We see this as a successful action which will facilitate partnerships with tribal nations in Arizona.”

The Queen Creek Independent is mailed each month to 24,000 homes.

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