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Contact: Maureen Oltrogge, 928-638-7779
Grand Canyon, Ariz. – The National Park Service (NPS) will begin implementing the first phase of the South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan at Grand Canyon National Park this spring. Parking and roadway improvements will occur adjacent to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center (Visitor Center) at Canyon View Information Plaza (CVIP). Phase I of the construction project is expected to begin in April and be completed by the end of November 2009.
The NPS will implement an array of transportation strategies to promote alternative travel modes to the park and better integrate connections between parking, transit, wayfinding and trip planning.
The South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park hosts almost 4 million visitors a year, yet visitor needs and experiences are considerably underserved by significant parking shortages, resource degradation and safety risks at and around Mather Point due to pedestrian/vehicular conflicts; and by difficulty accessing the Visitor Center.
In February 2008, the NPS, in cooperation with the US Forest Service (Kaibab Forest), released the South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan and Environmental Assessment. The plan evaluated three action alternatives to address the park’s most pressing transportation needs. The Preferred Alternative emphasized collaboration with adjacent communities, businesses, partners and other agencies, and included new visitor parking at CVIP, and removing vehicles at Mather Point to enhance the visitor’s experience and improve visitor safety.
Detailed design concepts for this project will be implemented in two phases and will focus on enhancing the visitor’s experience through implementation of the following program elements:
· An intuitive entry experience that enables logical flow of both vehicles and pedestrians (roadway, to parking lots, to pedestrian paths that lead visitors to Mather Point, the Visitor Center, and shuttle bus staging areas).
· A separate tour bus parking area with direct access to the Visitor Center and Mather Point.
· A centralized shuttle bus staging area that accommodates all three of the park’s shuttle bus transit routes and is convenient to new parking and visitor services at CVIP.
· An auto-free pedestrian experience at Mather Point with enhanced opportunities for viewing along the canyon rim. Improvements at Mather Point include an accessible path to the Mather Point Overlook, an informal amphitheater at the canyon rim, picnicking opportunities, landscape restoration, and interpretive exhibits.
Phase I construction will include realignment of the South Entrance Road to loop around CVIP to the south and west, providing easy access to three new visitor parking lots that will provide parking for up to 600 vehicles; a new separate parking lot for 40 commercial tour buses; and, construction of the shuttle bus staging area at the existing CVIP transit pavilion. Construction activities will also include improvements to manage storm water and extensive revegetation throughout the site.
The park’s vegetation staff and partners are salvaging a variety of plants from areas where parking and new roadways will be built. Plants being salvaged include grasses, cactus, shrubs and trees up to 15 feet in height. The plant material will be stored on site and replanted in areas where pavement will be removed near Mather Point.
A contract for approximately $5.3 million has been awarded to Brown & White, Inc. from Tucson, AZ, for Phase I construction. The project will be managed by the Central Federal Lands Highway Division of the Federal Highway Administration.
Construction activities near CVIP will start in April 2009, however, visitors will continue to have access to Mather Point, the Grand Canyon Visitor Center and to the Books & More Bookstore during the entire construction period. The Greenway trail from Yavapai Lodge to CVIP will be closed during construction. There will be intermittent traffic delays and some periodic vehicular and pedestrian detours throughout construction. The NPS will make every effort to provide advance notice of traffic changes to lessen any impacts to park visitors.
Commercial tour buses will continue to have access to CVIP throughout construction, although access routes and actual parking locations will change throughout construction - alternate routes and parking locations will be signed accordingly.
The park’s free shuttle bus operations will continue to serve the west end of the CVIP complex. Information on shuttle bus operations, including routes and schedules are posted on the park’s Web site at https://www.nps.gov/grca/ and will be listed in The Guide, the park’s free newspaper distributed to all visitors and available online at https://www.nps.gov/grca/parknews/upload/2009spGsr.pdf.
The NPS will also run a pilot shuttle bus program for a second year to test the feasibility and use of a free shuttle bus system between CVIP and the gateway community of Tusayan as called for in the South Rim Transportation Plan. The pilot shuttle program is expected to start on May 16, 2009 and run through September 13, 2009.
PHASE II of this project, which will include auto-free pedestrian improvements at Mather Point as outlined above, will begin once Phase I has been completed.
Additional transportation improvements were made recently at the South Entrance Station to improve the experience of those entering the park at this location by eliminating long lines at the entrance station. Those improvements included an additional northbound entrance lane; additional kiosks and the addition of an independent bypass lane that will be used initially for the park’s shuttle buses, first responder vehicles and government vehicles.
Within the next few years, the NPS also plans on expanded interpretive services at CVIP to improve visitor orientation and wayfinding; as well as a theater, bike rental facility and limited food items.
The NPS will use an adaptive management program to closely monitor and evaluate vehicular traffic, parking use and shuttle bus ridership to determine the timing and required components of any future improvements as outlined in the park’s South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan.
During construction, up to date information will be posted on the park’s website at https://www.nps.gov/grca/parkmgmt/cvip09.htm or by calling Vicky Stinson, Project Manager at 928-774-3026 or Maureen Oltrogge, Public Affairs Officer at 928-638-7779.