ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico will receive $561,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation from the last fiscal year to help counties within the state maintain school bus routes.
The Associated Press reports that the money comes from the Indian School Bus Route program and it will be shared between McKinley and San Juan counties.
The Indian School Bus Route program expired in September 2009, but U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman drafted legislation last year to renew the program, which would extend it for another six years in an effort to continue to improve the safety of roads used in the Navajo Nation to transport students to and from school.
The bill would also provide $12 million over the six years, which would be split equally among the three states that contain portions of the Navajo Nation.
Counties are required to use the funding for improvement and maintenance of roads located within — or that lead to — the reservation, that are on a state or county maintenance system and that serve as school bus routes.
“This bill continues an important federal program that addresses a unique problem with the roads in and around the nation’s single largest Indian reservation and the neighboring counties. Through this program, Navajo children who had been prevented from getting to school by roads that were often impassable are now traveling safely to and from their schools. Because of the unusual nature of this situation, I believe it must continue to be addressed at the federal level,” Bingaman said upon introducing the legislation.
According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, of the 9,700 miles of public roads that serve the Navajo Nation, only about one-third is paved. The remaining 6,500 miles are dirt roads. Nearly all of these roads are used to bring children to and from school.