The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) centers transfer transportation technology and services to officials of local governments. Few knew that LTAP’s scope was expanded by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991. ISTEA authorized the program to directly serve Native American tribal governments. During the past twelve years, seven Tribal Technical Assistance Program centers have opened in key areas around the country to meet the distinctive needs of Native American tribal governments.
With the passage of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act in 1975, tribal governments began exercising their authority to assume federal actions and make those actions tribal functions. While tribes have the authority to assume federal transportation funds, these functions have largely remained a federal operation handled through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Most tribes had neither the resources, including experience, nor opportunities to develop viable transportation management organizations.
In the 1980's, the lack of basic skills and infrastructure prevented tribal governments from taking advantage of the services that were being provided to rural transportation agencies and to those in small urban areas by LTAP and its predecessor, the Rural Technical Assistance Program (RTAP). Without much of the basic support that most state and local transportation officials have, tribal governments had no real access to the existing system of transportation-related education and funding.
RTAP became the Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP). This new authorization also emphasized intergovernmental transportation planning as well as travel and tourism, for American Indian tribal governments, through training and technical assistance.
Tribal representatives presented this case to Congress in committee hearings while ISTEA was in its drafting stages, and language aimed at addressing the problem was included in the legislation. It called for FHWA to establish at least two centers that would “… provide transportation assistance and training to American Indian tribal governments.” ISTEA also urged states to include tribal leaders in transportation decision-making, and it enabled the secretary of the interior to reserve BIA funds associated with the Indian Reservation Roads (IRR) program to help finance the centers.
To accommodate these differences, the planners of the Native American Local Technical Assistance Program (NALTAP), also known as the Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP), incorporated the broad, flexible guidelines that have successfully guided the state LTAP centers for more than 15 years.
In meeting these objectives, TTAP personnel had wide latitude in the design and delivery of specific activities and projects. In other works, the program was planned to be broadly discretionary, enabling both the providers and the users to make the best possible use of the human and institutional resources available to them.
TTAP centers and state LTAP centers have the same underlying mission, to help develop a sound transportation system through training, technical assistance and technology transfer. However, the TTAP centers assist tribal governments in developing inter-government coordination, transportation planning, and project selection. TTAP centers also focus on tourism as an economic development strategy. The basic contract elements are the same for each NALTAP and state LTAP center:
Publication of a quarterly newsletter
Development and maintenance of a mailing list
Technology transfer trough distribution of technical publications, videos, CD-ROMs and software and through technical assistance both in the field and from the center by telephone
Design and delivery of classes, workshops and other training activities
Planning and implementation of special projects
Evaluation and solicitation of client feedback followed by appropriate changes in programs and activities
Through training and special projects, the regions and tribes show their distinctive cultural, economic, political and geographic differences.
In its relatively brief lifetime, the program has gained a great many supporters in the private sector. Support from industry, professional associations, and nonprofit social and economic development groups. Groups such as; the Ford Foundation and in the public sector among state, local and tribal governments whose representatives have become acquainted or familiar with its work.
TTAP centers have formed cooperative relationships with many groups. These relationships are just the beginning of an extremely productive long term effort. For example, many of the approximately 51,000 reservation road miles, wind through and connect some of this continents most scenic and unspoiled areas. While a majority of tribal members have a strong bias against the commercialization of their natural and cultural resources, tribes are also gradually exploring, with TTAP support when requested, possibilities for developing eco-tourism and other road related projects that would foster economic growth and still preserve and even reinforce tribal values.
The Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP) serving American Indian tribal governments was established
Northwest Tribal LTAP and Four Corners (Colorado State University) TTAP were established
Southern (Oklahoma) Tribal Technical Assistance Program was established
Michigan Tech Tribal Technical Assistance Program was established
Northern Plains Tribal Technical Assistance Program was established
Alaska (Alaska Village) Technical Assistance Program was established
Western (California-Nevada) Tribal Technical Assistance Program was established