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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Transportation Planning in Tribal Communities Research Study


Existing studies surveying transportation planners in Tribal communities have recognized two challenges: (1) that existing planning analysis tools do not always align with Tribal community context and needs and (2) that it is not always clear what benefits planning provides to transportation project selection and delivery in Tribal communities. These challenges are outlined in a 2020 FHWA Research Needs Statement titled Making Transportation Planning Applicable in Tribal Communities (available upon request from project manager).

This Study, therefore, seeks to align available planning analysis tools to Tribal community needs based on a range of contextual factors and quantify the benefits of planning analysis in the project selection and delivery processes. Additionally, this Study seeks to ensure any findings optimize Tribal Transportation Program funding decision-making in Tribal communities. The audience for the Study is primarily Tribal planning staff and, secondarily, FHWA’s Office of Tribal Transportation staff and other federal agencies and partners.


This Study will analyze the transportation project development lifecycle (planning through design, construction, and maintenance) to understand which planning analysis tools best serve Tribal communities needs and to what effect.

The specific Study goals are to:

  1. Align planning tools to the specific Tribal planning need
  2. Ensure long-range transportation plans are implementable by Tribal staff
  3. Link planning phase to project design, construction, and maintenance


The Study is guided by a cross-USDOT project management team and a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) composed of Tribal planning staff, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other stakeholders. The key tasks are to:

  1. Review background literature
  2. Develop the study methodology
  3. Conduct site visits and data collection
  4. Evaluate planning analysis tools
  5. Develop the final report
  6. Implement findings

How to Engage

The Study’s anticipated timeline is three years (June 2020 through June 2023), with TAC, site visit, and professional conference engagement throughout. To stay up to date on the project, visit this project page regularly and contact the Project Manager, Cole Grisham, for more information.

Project Documents

For a printable version of the information on this page, click the link below. As the Study progresses, new documents and materials will be added here. Check back regularly for new document.

Project Documents: