Parks and Partners Receive Federal Transit Administration Funding
On February 19th, the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks program awards were announced. Administered by the Federal Transit Administration in partnership with the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service, the program funds capital and planning expenses for alternative transportation systems. FY 2013 funding will support 17 National Park Service and partner projects, such as multi-use pathways, clean diesel fuel buses, the Acadia National Park Gateway Intermodal Center and trolley system improvements.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Glacier National Park on Monday, February 18th, to announce $12.5 million in awards. Among them is a $250,000 grant that will allow Glacier National Park to purchase two new passenger buses for shuttle service along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Secretary LaHood emphasized the importance of investing in the country’s infrastructure and improving transit services “if these national parks are going to be accessible to us.”
Eight of the selected projects also directly support the America’s Great Outdoors initiative, including projects at Aztec Ruins National Monument, Gateway National Recreational Area, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail and Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. The projects will protect cultural and natural resources, improve visitor experiences, and promote alternative fuel usage. These projects also address national goals relative to climate change, as well as initiatives that target improved livability and sustainability within our communities and connecting urban communities with urban parks.
The program, established under 2005’s Safe Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA-LU, Public Law 109-59), was repealed under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) surface transportation law and will be retired after all its remaining funds are disbursed over the next several years.
The Paul S. Sarbanes program was created in response to traffic congestion in and around national parks and other federal land areas. Traffic congestion overloads parking areas, delays entrance to park units, causes air and noise pollution, wastes energy, stresses roads and bridges, and, in general, frustrates people who often visit public lands to escape these problems.
Since 2006, the NPS and its partners have received approximately $107 million in Paul S. Sarbanes project grants. Nearly $64 million have been awarded to park units across the nation to support projects involving the replacement of transit vehicles, docks, bus shelters, trail improvements, bike facilities, transit maintenance facilities, planning studies, equipment leases for transit pilots and to meet new capacity needs.
Click here for a full listing of the recent awards.
NPS Releases Annual Visitation Report
A report released by the NPS in late February shows that national parks continue to be important economic engines for local communities, with visitors generating $30.1 billion in revenue, and supporting more than 252,000 jobs nationwide in 2011. More than one-third of the total spending figure — approximately $13 billon, went directly to communities within 60 miles of a park unit. Visitor spending supported jobs in lodging, food and beverages, retail, transportation, and manufacturing.
The NPS also released 2012 visitation numbers, showing an increase of 3.8 million visitors over the 2011 figures. The NPS report is completed on an annual basis, and is prepared through a cooperative agreement with Michigan State University. CLICK HERE to download the Economic Benefits to Local Communities from National Park Visitation, 2011.