[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 163 (Friday, August 21, 2020)]
[Pages 51838-51842]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-18429]



[Docket No. FHWA-2020-0007]

Federal Highway Administration

Tribal Technical Assistance Program

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Department of 

ACTION: Notice; request for comments.


SUMMARY: This notice requests comments on the future delivery models 
proposed for the Tribal Technical Assistance Program (TTAP).

DATES: Comments must be received on or before September 21, 2020.

ADDRESSES: To ensure that you do not duplicate your docket submissions, 
please submit them by only one of the following means:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov and follow the online instructions for submitting 
     Mail: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of 
Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, W12-140, Washington, DC 20590.
     Hand Delivery: West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 
p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. The telephone 
number is (202) 366-9329.
     Instructions: You must include the agency name and docket 
number at the beginning of your comments. All comments received will be 
posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov including any 
personal information provided.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions about the TTAP, contact 
Victoria Peters, FHWA Center for Local Aid Support, (720) 963-3522, or 
by email at [email protected]. For legal questions, please 
contact Vivian Philbin, FHWA Office of the Chief Counsel, (720) 963-
3445, or by email at [email protected]. Business hours for FHWA 
are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., E.T., Monday through Friday, except 
Federal holidays.


Electronic Access

    You may retrieve a copy of the notice through the Federal 
eRulemaking portal at: http://www.regulations.gov. The website is 
available 24 hours a day. Electronic submission and retrieval help and 
guidelines are available under the help section of the website. An 
electronic copy of this document may also be downloaded from the Office 
of the Federal Register's home page at: http://www.archives.gov/federal_register and the Government Publishing Office's web page at: 


    The legislative authority to deliver TTAP is contained in 23 U.S.C. 
504(b). The Secretary may make grants and enter into cooperative 
agreements and contracts to provide education and training, technical 
assistance, and related support services described in 23 U.S.C. 504(b).
    TTAP was added to the Local Technical Assistance Program in 1991, 
with the primary objective of building transportation professional 
capacity within the federally recognized Tribes to support the 
management of their transportation assets. The program started with 
four centers and expanded to seven centers by 1996. In 2018, in order 
to focus more program resources on core training and technical 
assistance, the program piloted a national delivery model for 2 years; 
this pilot concluded in December 2019.
    Throughout the 2-year pilot, FHWA received feedback from the Tribes 
on the model and its performance. In response, FHWA held four 
consultation sessions in the summer of 2019 to solicit more direct 
feedback on the national model. Tribes provided feedback that they 
wanted more input in the development of future TTAP objectives and 
program delivery.
    In acknowledgement of the feedback received and to accommodate more 
direct and more extensive Tribal involvement, FHWA conducted 13 
additional consultation sessions, including at least one in each of the 
12 Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) regions during late 2019 and early 
2020. These facilitated consultation sessions focused on two questions: 
(1) Within the framework of the enabling legislation, what objectives 
did the Tribes want to see the TTAP accomplish; and (2) What is the 
best delivery model to achieve those objectives?

[[Page 51839]]

    This notice summarizes the feedback received from the 13 
consultation sessions and proposes 2 delivery models for the 
advancement of TTAP. FHWA is interested in receiving further input on 
the proposed models.
    While the face-to-face training of TTAP is currently suspended as 
potential delivery models for TTAP are being assessed, online training 
and technical assistance are still available during the temporary 
suspension of face-to-face trainings.

Summary of the National Pilot

    In 2018-2019, FHWA piloted a national delivery model for TTAP to 
assess whether reshaping the program could feasibly increase the amount 
of transportation training and associated technical assistance 
available to Tribal transportation professionals and provide data to 
serve as a baseline against which future improvements could be 
measured. Administered from a central location with the virtual 
delivery of face-to-face training, the pilot tested a means to provide 
broader national coverage. The goal was to deliver training in core 
transportation focus areas, centralize subject matter expertise, ensure 
consistency in training delivery, share best practices and innovation, 
enable technical assistance from subject matter experts (SMEs), test a 
Road Scholars certification program, and create program awareness with 
the Tribal transportation workforce. The pilot was funded at the same 
level as previous TTAP efforts. A brief summary of the pilot follows:
     Centralizing the administrative functions (e.g., 
developing training material; coordinating and scheduling training 
sessions and technical assistance; sharing best practices/innovation 
via a newsletter; and hosting a website that provided information on 
annual training schedules and locations, available resources, toolkits, 
fact sheets and regulatory links) in one center substantially reduced 
overhead, reduced redundancy, and increased the resources available for 
training and technical assistance.
     Over 60 core curriculum courses were developed in 5 core 
transportation areas and were offered in the following formats: online 
self-paced, online 4-week instructor-led, and face-to-face. The pilot 
also included a special emphasis area of motor vehicle injury 
     The pilot provided in-depth training on topics and skills 
with the face-to-face training classes that were 3.5 hours or longer. 
These courses were offered primarily to Tribes, but others could attend 
on a space-available basis. During the pilot, these sessions averaged 
participation of 78 percent Tribal and 22 percent non-Tribal; this was 
comparable to the previous 5 years of the TTAP, which had average 
participation of 70 percent Tribal and 30 percent non-Tribal attendees.
     The face-to-face class sizes during the pilot ranged from 
2 to 26 participants for an average of 5 registrations per class. 
Comparing the average number of face-to-face training session 
participants, the 5-year average of the former centers was almost 
double that of the pilot. However, the pilot metric does not include 
attendees participating in national and regional conference face-to-
face training sessions as was previously included; it only includes 
attendees at the 3.5-hour training classes.
     The training was delivered by 10 SMEs in safety, planning 
& procurement, project delivery, maintenance & operations, and asset & 
data management. The SMEs were located across the country and worked 
remotely. All training was geographically dispersed across the country 
to provide equitable access to the full range of training opportunities 
for all the Tribes.
     The pilot delivered 4,754 hours of face-to-face training 
over a 21-month period. Converted to an annual number, this represents 
a 60 percent increase over the 5-year annual average for face-to-face 
training hours delivered in the previous 5 years of the TTAP. An 
additional 1,364 contact hours were earned by Tribal participants from 
the online learning delivered under the pilot.
     Upon request, the TTAP SMEs provided customized technical 
assistance to help build the technical knowledge and capabilities of 
Tribal workforces. Serving as technical mentors, SMEs provided guidance 
and resources beyond the classroom. Over the course of the pilot, the 
SMEs provided an average of 36 technical assistance hours per month to 
the Tribal workforce.
     The pilot included a Road Scholar Certification Program 
that offered the opportunity to become certified in several roadway and 
heavy equipment operation topics. The certification center was located 
in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Blending both online and in-person testing, 
all applicants were emailed a study packet to facilitate passing the 
online pre-examination before proceeding with the practical examination 
process (hands-on for several topics). Many applicants did not proceed 
after receiving the initial study packet. Nine applicants pretested in 
multiple topics, and two moved into the practical examination phase. To 
address concerns expressed regarding the difficulty of the 
certification exams, the program was also tested with 15 local public 
agency employees from the Oklahoma City area, ranging in skill level 
from newly employed with little to no experience to seasoned 
maintenance workers. The more experienced local workers advanced to 
practical testing.
     Centralizing the administrative function of the program 
lost the regional interface between the Tribes and TTAP. An important 
component of the TTAP's efficacy is the relationship between the TTAP 
staff and the Tribes. While centralizing the administrative function of 
the program reduced the cost of maintaining multiple physical centers 
and administrative staff, the program lost the existing interface 
between the Tribes and the TTAP. A centralized program resolved 
limitations with respect to subject matter expertise as well as the 
scope and amount of training provided under the prior TTAP model. 
However, the TTAP will need to reestablish the connection between the 
TTAP staff and Tribes. Moving forward, a regional connection needs to 
be reestablished.
     The understanding and provision of culturally relevant 
information between the SMEs and the Tribes was an issue throughout the 
pilot. The SMEs were hired for their experience in particular 
specialties and the application of these specialties in different 
transportation programs and localities. However, the SMEs' 
understanding of the Tribal program was limited and some initially 
lacked the information and skills necessary to translate their 
recognition into their face to face interaction. As they integrated 
class discussions of regional and Tribal issues into the standardized 
curriculum, their understanding of the Tribal program and its issues 
continued to evolve. To improve engagement, SMEs will need to be 
conversant in, and pay close attention to, the delivery characteristics 
of the Tribal program.

Discussion of Consultation Outcomes

    During late 2019 and early 2020, FHWA conducted 13 consultation 
sessions, including at least one in each of the 12 BIA regions. These 
facilitated consultation sessions focused on two questions: (1) Within 
the framework of the enabling legislation, what objectives did the 
Tribes want to see the program accomplish; and (2) What is the best 
delivery model to achieve those objectives? Each consultation session 
generated a list of prioritized objectives. During the consultations, 

[[Page 51840]]

objectives were initially identified by individual consultation 
participants and then collectively discussed and consolidated. This 
section discusses the objectives and delivery models that arose from 
consultation discussions.


    Below are the objectives of TTAP listed in the order most 
frequently heard at the consultation sessions:
     Technical Assistance--Provide technical assistance 
relevant to the training curriculum and Tribal needs.
     Innovation--Bring new innovations in technology and 
practice to the attention of the Tribes and incorporate applicable 
innovation in the training and technical assistance.
     Core Training Curriculum--Deliver skills-based training on 
core competencies for transportation program requirements. To the 
extent possible, provide supporting technical manuals and guidance 
documents for key courses.
     Workforce Development--Facilitate or enable professional 
training that leads to certification for transportation construction-
related trades, including heavy equipment operation.
     In-person Training Locations--To the maximum extent 
possible, deliver in-person training at locations that are readily 
accessible to the maximum number of Tribes.
     Instructor knowledge of Tribes and Tribal issues--Provide 
trainers and technical advisors who have demonstrable Tribal 
     Tiered Training--Provide multi-tiered training (e.g., 
basic, intermediate, advanced) for selected courses.
     Establish and Leverage Relationships--Leverage 
relationships with transportation partners and direct Tribes to 
information, data, resources, and expertise that are not provided as 
part of TTAP.
     Regional Specificity--Provide training that is relevant to 
Tribal needs in terms of regional climate, geology, and local 
     Tribal Input into Courses and Training Calendar--
Incorporate Tribal input into what training is delivered and where and 
when it is delivered. This includes Tribal input on what training is 
     Multiple Course Delivery Options--Deliver curriculum 
through multiple methods (e.g., face-to-face, online, peer-to-peer 
exchanges, electronic media).
     Program Communication--Ensure that TTAP communicates 
appropriately and effectively with all Tribes about program activities, 
understands Tribal needs, and shares what TTAP can provide.
     Relationship Building--Provide a designated TTAP point-of-
contact (POC) as a first resource for outreach and to address issues of 
interest to Tribes within the regions.
     Instructor Competency--Provide instructors who are SMEs.
     Funding Resources--Provide information and links to 
available funding resources.
    Other topics discussed at the consultations include developing a 
knowledge portal, creating job competencies, sharing information on 
road maintenance programs, addressing multi-jurisdictional issues, and 
teaching job-specific duties.

Delivery Models

    Each consultation session identified several potential delivery 
models. During the consultation sessions, for brainstorming purposes 
only, no financial constraints were placed on the proposed delivery 
models. Instead, those involved in the brainstorming were asked to 
consider scalability in the models they proposed. The delivery models 
were not fully formulated, but the key elements that sought to address 
the prioritized objectives were identified.
    The outcomes of the 13 consultation sessions were discussed with 
the Tribal Transportation Program Coordinating Committee (TTPCC) during 
its February 2020 meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico. During this 
discussion, commonalities and themes were explored with the TTPCC. This 
led to a grouping of the objectives and a review of the potential 
delivery models' abilities to deliver the maximum number of these 

Delivery Models Not Advanced

    The following models were analyzed for feasibility and 
effectiveness in meeting legislative intent and Tribal objectives. 
These models were deemed less effective in meeting these criteria.
    1. Physical Office/Center in Each Region--A physical office incurs 
costs for rent, services, equipment, and a structure of administrative 
positions in each office. These overhead expenses are an annual 
obligation out of program resources, diminishing the resources 
available to deliver the core training and education mission.
    2. Direct Funding--This model would allocate TTAP funding directly 
to the Tribes, shifting the responsibility of training and education to 
each Tribe. It would use the established Tribal Transportation Program 
(TTP) distribution formula, resulting in 456 Tribes receiving less than 
$2,000 annually to meet their transportation training and education 
needs. Each Tribe would need to provide FHWA with a document that 
ensured the funds were being used for the intended purpose prior to 
receiving the allocation. The administrative burden of this model 
renders it ineffective. In addition, 80 percent of the Tribes would 
receive very limited funding to meet their training and technical 
assistance needs.
    3. Intertribal/Train-the-Trainer--This model sought to establish 
the training capacity within the Tribal community itself. This model's 
effectiveness is challenged by the Tribes' capacity to supply trainers 
(e.g., time available to be away from their position/Tribe to provide 
training), the need to develop and maintain the trainers' instructional 
techniques and capacity (this would be ongoing as individuals entered 
and left this function), ensure subject matter expertise, and maintain 
training and technical assistance consistency and currency across a 
broad spectrum of trainers. However, exploring how to integrate the 
concept of a train-the-trainer element into TTAP can be explored as 
TTAP is deployed.
    4. National Delivery Only--The national model does not include a 
regional presence to establish and maintain relationships with the 
Tribes in a region. The significance of this presence to communicate 
with and understand regional Tribal needs and priorities was clearly 
expressed during the consultations and can improve the receptivity for 
training and education opportunities. However, there are programmatic 
elements (e.g., online course delivery, core training development, 
internet website that includes resource information) that are more 
effectively managed and administered at the national level.
    5. Community College-Driven Program--This model sought to leverage 
the 32 fully accredited Tribal Colleges and Universities across the 
U.S. to deliver the TTAP. Most of these academic institutions are 2-
year schools, and 11 provide pathways to engineering and material 
sciences. Working with a number of these institutions to effectively 
integrate TTAP courses and training material into their programs would 
be time-intensive and would not meet the immediate or near-term needs 
of Tribal transportation. However, exploring potential partnerships at 
the national and regional levels with these colleges and universities 
that could share faculty, curricula, equipment, and/or instructional 
supplies could be conducted as part of the leveraging partnerships 
objective that is part of each of the advanced delivery models.

[[Page 51841]]

    6. Heavy Equipment Workforce Development--An objective that was 
noted in many of the consultation sessions was the establishment of 
heavy equipment training capacity within TTAP. During the 
consultations, this was defined as the training necessary to become 
proficient in heavy equipment operation; this is not a 2-hour or half-
day familiarization event with equipment that may be onsite. To become 
proficient in heavy equipment operation, the average accredited ``in-
the-seat'' training program ranges from 4 to 8 weeks to develop skills 
for multiple pieces of equipment used in highway maintenance and 
construction. These programs are designed to provide the fundamental 
skills and knowledge needed to operate heavy equipment safely and 
proficiently. Given the current funding level for TTAP, providing 
scholarships to attend credentialed programs is not feasible without 
forgoing a significant portion of the proposed training and technical 
assistance, which is a large component of the statutory mandate. 
However, given the interest expressed in this training, FHWA will 
explore potential partnership arrangements and access opportunities 
with programs administered by other Federal agencies or Departments to 
determine options for how TTAP could expand into this area.

The Objectives and the Delivery Models Advanced

    A matrix table comparing the objectives to considered models is 
available as an attachment within this docket notice and on the FHWA 
Center for Local Aid Support website.\1\

    \1\ The Models and Objectives matrix table is available at 

    The following information is necessary to understanding the 
delivery models.
    1. Regional Area--In evaluating the regional area in the delivery 
models presented below, careful consideration was given to the size and 
determination of regional areas that are feasible under currently 
available funding for the TTAP ($1.05 million per year) and that 
provides equitable training opportunities to all the Tribes within 
those regions. To achieve these two elements, FHWA utilized the 
statutory formula used to determine the distribution of TTP funding.\2\ 
The use of this formula is an established methodology and incorporates 
multiple parameters (e.g., Tribal population, road mileage, and average 
Tribal shares) into the allocation of resources.

    \2\ The Section 6002 of the FAST Act continued this formula 
without modification. 23 U.S.C. 202(b).

    2. Key Roles and Responsibilities--the details of the following 
responsibilities would be operationalized in a contract with FHWA.
    The regional POC will receive regional technical assistance 
requests and forward to appropriate individuals and agencies for 
resolution; coordinate Tribal input through an annual needs assessment 
and work with the FHWA to implement; communicate and market the conduct 
of the face-to-face and on-line training delivery; identify and secure 
in-person training workshop locations and ensure that they are 
compatible with Tribal customs and calendars; collect Tribal issues and 
challenges prior to course delivery to support instructor inclusion in 
training delivery; establish and leverage local and regional 
relationships to ensure that Tribal needs are addressed; build 
relationships with the Tribes in the region; develop and maintain a 
regional mailing list; and develop and publish a newsletter.
    The SMEs will respond to technical assistance requests received 
from regional POCs; utilize information collected by the regional POCs 
to understand and incorporate regional issues and challenges into the 
delivery of training and technical assistance; deliver face-to-face 
training in their expertise area; identify and share best practices and 
Tribal case studies with regional POCs and the FHWA for distribution to 
Tribes; and establish and leverage local and regional relationships to 
ensure Tribal needs are addressed.
    The FHWA will develop and promulgate information on TTAP and 
disseminate in concert with the regional POC; develop and make 
available the core training curriculum; identify and disseminate 
information on innovative technologies and practices; support and 
enable the conduct of the online course delivery options; establish and 
leverage national level relationships to ensure Tribal needs are 
addressed (this could include potential relationships or partnerships 
to advance workforce development); develop and maintain a TTAP website 
for sharing program information, resources, best practices, etc.; 
develop and share the competencies relevant to job functions; and 
identify the training that supports and enables those job functions and 
make them available to the Tribes (resource development, tools, 
manuals, etc.).

Common Elements of the Delivery Models

    All delivery models will utilize the current core curriculum 
material. To achieve regional specificity within the curriculum, Tribes 
in the regions will be solicited for the challenges or issues they face 
due to geography, climate, or local regulations so that those elements 
may be included. The SMEs will supplement the core training modules to 
integrate the regional elements.
    An annual training needs assessment will inform the curriculum that 
will be budgeted, designed, and delivered and the locations/venues for 
    All models deliver training in a 3-day training workshop format. 
Unlike a conference, the workshops will be a focused educational 
setting designed to enhance the skills of participants. No plenary 
session or presentations will be delivered. When appropriate, and if 
the venue affords the capacity and opportunity, hands-on practice of 
new skills will be incorporated into the sessions.
    An annual national conference will be provided to address 
programmatic and mutual topics of national interest.
    A regional POC or SME will be selected whose responsibility will 
include building relationships with, and disseminating information to, 
the Tribes in their assigned region. To the extent possible, SMEs in 
the regions would each have different expertise in order to expand and 
diversify the training bandwidth of TTAP. Individuals with 
instructional knowledge/competency and an understanding of a Tribal 
environment will be actively solicited to fill these positions.
    The FHWA will continue to leverage partnerships at the national and 
regional levels to broaden the resources available to Tribes. The 
regional POC or SME would leverage local and regional partnerships.
    A national TTAP website will be developed. The website or ``online 
resource center'' will provide a variety of materials, tools and 
resources relevant to the Tribal program.
    Mailing lists will be updated and maintained at the regional level.
    The FHWA will continue to provide TTAP updates at conferences and 
manage programmatic discussions with Tribes.
    To continue employing a blended learning strategy, existing online 
curriculum developed by FHWA or one of its partners will remain 
available for Tribal use.
    All models operate within the currently available funding level of 
$1.05 million per year. During the

[[Page 51842]]

national pilot and the previous TTAP delivery model, the annual funding 
available for TTAP was approximately $2 million per year and included 
funding from the TTP. Due to funding priorities within the TTP, the 
program no longer supports the TTAP. In addition, resource limitations 
preclude providing a multi-level (basic, intermediate, advanced) 

Delivery Models Advanced

    The two delivery models described below combine the maximum number 
of objectives from the consultation sessions within the annual 
available funding for the TTAP--$1.05 million per year. Both models 
have the potential for scalability and expansion. Any expansion would 
be incremental to ensure program fidelity is maintained. Opportunities 
identified during the consultation sessions--developing multi-tiered 
training, leveraging Tribal community colleges' assets for both credit 
and non-credit training, and providing individual scholarships to 
obtain highway craft skills through accredited organizations or those 
identified in future needs assessments--may be pursued subject to 
additional funding and legislative intent.
    Three TTAP Regions with POCs & Part-time SME Support. Under this 
model, the FHWA would solicit offers for a POC for each region and 
subject matter expertise to support instructional training delivery and 
technical assistance. This model offers a minimum of 19 hours of 
technical assistance delivered by a SME in each region per month. The 
POC would coordinate the technical assistance requests and contact the 
appropriate SME or agency for resolution. The model budgets for 11 
overnight trips each year for technical assistance calls or networking 
in the region. Each region would receive 3 training workshops per year 
in a multi-track format, providing an annual availability of 567 
training hours (189 face-to-face hours in each of the 3 TTAP regions). 
The POC would solicit Tribes in the regions prior to the workshops to 
identify challenges and issues to be integrated into the training 
topics. The SME would incorporate discussion of these issues and 
challenges at the training workshops. At current funding levels, this 
model provides for the development of two additional training topics 
each year. Topics selected for development would be an outcome of the 
annual needs assessment and innovation topics ready for deployment. An 
electronic newsletter would be developed by the POC and published for 
each region.
    BIA Regional Training Workshops & SME Assigned Four BIA Regions. 
Under this model, each SME would take on the functions of both POC and 
SME for the region. Each of the three SMEs would be responsible for 
four BIA regions. The technical assistance hours would be delivered in 
the time available to the SME. Each SME would have the ability to 
travel overnight 3 times to each BIA region for technical assistance 
and networking (a total of 12 overnight trips per year). The training 
hours and locations would be expanded from 9 workshops nationally under 
the above model to 24 workshops annually. Each BIA region would receive 
two 3-day, multi-track workshops for an availability of 1512 hours (126 
face-to-face hours in each of the 12 BIA regions). As with the model 
above, SMEs would supplement the core training with regional 
specificity. At current funding levels, this model provides for the 
development of one additional training topic each year. The topic 
selected for development would be an outcome of the annual needs 
assessment and innovation topics ready for deployment. An electronic 
newsletter would be developed by the SME and published for the four BIA 
regions that are the SME's responsibility.

Request for Comment

    The FHWA is asking the public and specifically Tribal leaders or 
their direct designees for comments on the following questions:
    1. Of the two proposed delivery models being advanced, which do you 
support and why?
    2. Are there aspects of either of the two proposed delivery models 
being advanced that you think should be adjusted? Which aspects? How 
and why should they be adjusted?
    3. If you do not support either of the two models, please explain 
your rationale and provide any alternatives you believe would meet the 
TTAP's legislative intent and maximize the Tribal objectives from the 

    Authority: 23 U.S.C. 504(b).

Nicole R. Nason,
Administrator, Federal Highway Administration.
[FR Doc. 2020-18429 Filed 8-20-20; 8:45 am]