The Chickasaw Nation is the first Native American tribe ever to win a national award for road improvements. The tribe has also earned an award from the state of Oklahoma for its efforts on the recently completed Latta Road-Main Street project.


“It is an impressive accomplishment for the tribe. We are the first tribe to compete for the award; be nominated for it and then win it,” said Bo Ellis, Chickasaw Nation Roads Department director.


The national honor from the Asphalt Emulsion Manufacturers Association was awarded in Florida during a conference in February. The tribe’s dedication to repairing roads using quality, long-lasting material with the added benefit for saving money earned it top honors.


A two-year drought cause problems last year for a one-mile stretch of road leading to the Chickasaw Children’s Village in Kingston, Okla. Cracks and oxidation were eating it away.


Ellis and his crew consulted with Johnny Roe, a representative of Ergon Asphalt and Emulsions of Lawton, Okla. They decided to use preservation treatments to restore the road and dramatically reduced the price tag to fix problems.


Cracks were resealed, locking out moisture and preventing further damage. A chip seal was then applied using a high grade, polymer-modified asphalt emulsion. When that was completed, the tribe decided to double fog seal the road.


“I’ve seen chip seals that were still losing rocks a few weeks after they are applied,” Ellis said. “The fog seal really bonds the whole thing together and locks in your driving surface giving you more bang for your buck.”


An added plus for the Chickasaw Nation is Oklahoma suppliers, experts and contractors were used exclusively to assist in restoration.


In March, the Chickasaw Nation was named the Gold Winner in the country roads category for its complete makeover of the Latta Road and Main Street project in Ada. Ellis said the Nation had been cited by the state before, but on projects where the Oklahoma Department of Transportation acted as a main contractor.


“This is the first award given to us where we were in full control of the project,” Ellis said.


The American Concrete Pavers Association issued the award for the “overall quality of the project” using a standard of “what it was like before construction and what it is like now.”


The Chickasaw Nation partnered with the city of Ada to widen the road, install two left turn lanes onto Latta Road that are regulated by traffic lights, removed a confusing and dangerous tree-lined center medium and even installed a sidewalk for pedestrians.