While material costs for paving continues to rise, historically low-taxed Oklahomans remain cautious about increasing taxes that might offset the funds associated with much needed road repairs. According to a recent survey from Consumer Affairs, the state ranks sixth in its list of the United States’ worst roads.

(L-R) Tribal Police Major Mike Hendrickson, Aidan Muller, Art Muller, Tribal Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett, Vice-Chairman Linda Capps, Shawn Howard, Zach Davis, Jeff Tompkins, Lexi Freeman and Rob Potter.

Some of this is due in part to years of underinvestment, but Oklahoma’s wild weather can also play a part. Extreme heat in the summer and below-freezing temperatures in the winter and early spring can lead to asphalt buckling, potholes and erosion on the state’s roads and bridges. Tribal jurisdictions across Oklahoma — mostly in rural, lower trafficked areas of the state — often have been neglected by the state and counties.

However, in the last two decades, tribal governments began playing a more pronounced role at the local level. Using revenues derived from tribal gaming operations and other enterprises, many Oklahoma Indian Nations meet federal cost share requirements to secure grant funding opportunities specifically designated for transportation infrastructure.

Citizen Potawatomi Nation has successfully utilized this tool to develop road, bridge and rail improvements in its historic jurisdiction in Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma.

Just before Christmas, Tribal officials and staff held a formal ribbon cutting to commemorate completion of the new Ohio Street Extension project near the FireLake complex. Funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Tribal Transportation Program at a cost of approximately $320,000, the new roadway will improve interconnectivity, alleviate local traffic and provide infrastructure for future development.

Currently, the offices for housekeeping and information technology departments are the area’s only residents. However, the road’s completion connects it with a north-south road next to Shawnee Outdoors, a local retailer. Future prospects for the area could include a housing development or commercial enterprises.