The National Park Service Transportation Program is responsible for maintaining approximately 5,500 miles of paved roads, 4,100 miles of graveled roads, 1,442 bridges, and 63 tunnels, all spread across currently 407 park units. The paved roads alone would stretch the distance between Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, Calif. Altogether, the roads, bridges, and tunnels represent a Federal investment in excess of $20 billion dollars.
In the face of lower-than-expected funding under the current transportation legislation, along with chronic inflation that continues to impact construction costs, road conditions In the National Parks have not been stabilized. Thus, the National Park Service faces a large backlog in maintenance projects.
The NPS Transportation Program's goal is to prepare the National Park System transportation facilities for the 2016 Centennial of the National Park Service by bringing all facilities up to an acceptable condition.
Roads: The 2012 publicly accessible paved road network Pavement Condition Rating (PCR), an FHWA-developed, industry standard condition metric, showed NPS roads at 82, indicating a network-wide "fair condition" for its pavements. The ideal condition under sound asset management practices would be to improve the system and maintain it at a PCR of 85 (the lowest PCR still in "good condition"), which allows for a network of paved roads which can be efficiently maintained with pavement preservation and a complete array of maintenance and rehabilitation strategies.
Bridges: The NPS bridge inventory is still in "good condition," with an industry standard Bridge Health Index of 0.92, although that rating places it on the border of "fair condition." The inventory condition has declined only marginally since 2005. However, the NPS bridge inventory is aging, with a number of bridges having been constructed in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. A 2010 assessment reported 28 publicly accessible NPS bridges as "structurally deficient," in need of rehabilitation or reconstruction. Protecting the NPS bridge inventory requires strategies that identify and address these structural deficiencies.
Preventive Treatments: To maintain the roads and bridges now listed in "good condition"—and successfully protect NPS transportation investments—the Federal Lands Transportation Program (FLTP) must implement an aggressive preventive maintenance program. This would extend the life of these facilities, and ultimately save substantial dollars by avoiding full reconstruction costs. A dollar spent on preventive maintenance can save $3-$5 in the future, so a lack of annual investment in preventative maintenance will only cost more in the long term.