Senators Klobuchar, Smith Announce Funding to Modernize Public Transit in Native Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. [8.18.22] – Today, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (both D-MN) announced that over $5.9 million in federal grants have been awarded to Tribal communities in Minnesota to upgrade and modernize their public transit systems. Specifically, the White Earth Nation will receive $3.6 million for new public transit facilities, the Prairie Island Indian Community will receive $1.6 million for electric buses, and $739,500 will go to the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa for low-emission buses and filling stations. 

“Investments in public transit help reduce traffic and make it easier for Minnesotans to get to school, work, and other destinations,” said Klobuchar. “This federal funding will make a real difference in Tribal communities across our state, modernizing buses and bolstering transit efficiency so residents can safely and reliably get around their community.”

“Each day, transit systems connect Minnesotans to their jobs, schools, grocery stores and countless other opportunities – all while reducing traffic congestion and pollution,” said Sen. Smith, Chair of the Senate Transit Subcommittee. “This funding will help modernize public transit in Tribal communities, while improving air quality and helping combat climate change. I am proud of our work to help make these grants more accessible for Tribal communities and will continue working to support public transportation across Minnesota.”

“On behalf of myself and the other members of the RBC, we are proud to be one of the recipients of such a generous grant from the FTA,” said White Earth Reservation Business Committee (RBC) Chairman Michael Fairbanks. “Our goal is to always ensure that our systems, processes, and decisions work to serve our community and families of the White Earth Reservation to the highest standard possible. This grant will aid in the continuance of providing excellency of White Earth’s Transit system as well as being at the forefront of improving air quality and combating climate change.”

“We are very grateful to have been one of the recipients for this program that will help our environment by reducing emissions,” said Bois Forte Tribal Chair Cathy Chavers. “In speaking with Toni Wakemup from Big Woods Transit, our plans are to purchase six propane busses and install a propane fueling station with the grant monies. We can’t thank Senators Smith and Klobuchar enough for their assistance and continue support.”

“On behalf of the Prairie Island Indian Community, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar for their joint dedication and leadership demonstrated by this investment in our Tribal Community and the broader communities of Minnesota, as we work to combat the negative impacts of climate change,” said the Prairie Island Indian Community Tribal Council. “As Dakota people, we strive to be good neighbors and good stewards of the earth, and this funding will help support greener public transportation efforts as an integral part of our Prairie Island Indian Community Net Zero project. Wopida Tonka (many thanks) for your continued commitment to Tribal Nations, the environment, the State of Minnesota and future generations.”

Earlier this year, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced a joint Notice of Funding Opportunity for approximately $1.1 billion through the Low or No Emission Vehicle Program and $372 million for the Buses and Bus Facilities Program. These grants are intended to help modernize bus fleets and bus facilities and support the purchase or leasing of low- or zero- emission vehicles to help improve air quality and combat climate change. Of the five grant recipients in Minnesota, three are Tribal transit projects.

In 2021, Senator Smith welcomed FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez to Minnesota to testify at a Transit Subcommittee hearing on Minnesota’s transit priorities.  More recently, Senator Smith chaired a field hearing earlier this summer in Minnesota aimed at elevating the infrastructure priorities of Minnesota’s Tribal Nations and raising awareness among Tribal Nations for the funding opportunities available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed at the end of 2021. Senator Smith has also pushed the FTA to streamline their application process and make their competitive grant programs more accessible to Tribal and other under-resourced communities.