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John A Volpe National Transportation Systems Center releases a new paper titled NPS Transportation Innovative Finance Options

The John A Volpe National Transportation Systems Center released in May 2013 a new paper titled NPS Transportation Innovative Finance Options. The concise 13-page document provides a summary of innovative finance techniques and how they can be applicable within the National Park Service.

The report notes that the NPS has, under current statutory authority, applied most available methods of innovative financing, and that many of the finance techniques afforded to state and local governments are not applicable to federal agencies.

Financing techniques discussed in the paper include public-private partnerships, tolling/value pricing, value capture / tax increment financing, infrastructure bank, and grant management tools. The closing section of the document provides suggestions for how to incorporate innovative finance techniques into the context of the NPS transportation program. The paper contains examples of several parks and how they have made use of innovative financing techniques.

Download your copy of NPS Transportation Innovative Finance Options, here.

National Park Foundation (NPF) awards a quarter-million dollars to five national parks to provide Transportation Scholars

The National Park Foundation (NPF) recently awarded a quarter-million dollars to five national parks to provide Transportation Scholars who will spend time in the parks analyzing traffic flows and bottlenecks. (See the related Project Profile this month.)

Now in its 12th year, the Transportation Scholars program selects emerging transportation professionals to work side-by-side with park staff to research sustainable alternative solutions to address the growing and unique transportation issues in America's national parks, including traffic, pollution and congestion.

According to Foundation CEO and President Neil Mulholland in a release. "To date, this program has positively impacted more than 45 sites across the country."

An example of a Transportation Scholar project: A scholar funded by the program in 2009 spent a year helping officials to develop an Alternative Transportation Plan for the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. The 72-mile corridor of this partnership park bisects the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, providing a primary north-south multi-modal greenway for local residents and visitors.

Previous scholars' work has resulted in nearly four million dollars in private and public funding to put the Transportation Scholars' plans into action. Past scholars have gone on to careers with the National Park Service, the Federal Highway Administration, the Department of Transportation and many private consulting agencies.

"The Transportation Scholars Program is a unique partnership that is helping us create comprehensive transportation plans for national parks," said Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "The research and solutions developed by these scholars not only aid us in improving the visitor experience, but also provide for improved protection of the natural and cultural resources in our parks."

The 2013 Transportation Scholars national park recipients include:

  • Bandelier National Monument (New Mexico)-The scholar will help develop a thoughtful wayfinding/signage plan and establish partnerships with local communities and agencies to collectively address the need for a Bandelier bike loop and regional bicycle trail.
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)-The scholar will develop a plan for alternative transportation that will help connect underserved communities with the natural, historic, educational and recreational aspects of the national park.
  • Lowell National Historical Park (Massachusetts)-The scholar will help manage improvements to and expansion of the existing visitor trolley system, in addition to providing technical assistance in contract management, addressing FTA program requirements and facilitating collaboration among community partners.
  • National Mall and Memorial Parks (Washington, D.C.)-The scholar will develop strategic recommendations for multimodal transportation options that provide more efficient visitor mobility, safe walking/biking environments, and less traffic congestion.
  • Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Montana and Idaho)-The scholar will continue working on the "Gardiner Gateway Project," which was started in 2012. The scholar will focus on improving the current traffic congestion, parking overflow, and pedestrian/bicycle safely concerns at the park's historic north entrance.

The Transportation Scholars program model has proven so successful that the Transit in Parks Technical Assistance Center (TRIPTAC) launched a complementary program last year, expanding the program to all public lands. This new extension, the TRIPTAC Public Lands Transportation Scholars Program, is based on the NPF program model and matches Transportation Scholars with one of three other federal land management agencies. The two programs will work together to train and mentor scholars with the shared goal of preserving our nation's valuable natural, cultural, and historic resources and enhancing the visitor experience by implementing sustainable, alternative transportation in national parks and public lands.

Park Service and the Adventure Cycling Association Reach Five-Year Agreement

A five-year agreement reached between the Park Service and the Adventure Cycling Association, based in Missoula, Montana, should help park supervisors plan for bike tours, consider better road designs and include other features that appeal to tourists on bikes, according to NPS spokesman Alan Turnbull.

“There’ve been a lot of studies showing the economic impact of bike tourism in national parks,” said Turnbull, who works with the NPS's Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program. “If the Park Service was a business operator, which it’s not, it would still look at bicyclists as: ‘They come in, spend money and exert very little wear-and-tear on the park.’ It’s a win-win.”

Adventure Cycling will share details of its extensive bike-route development activity and best-use practices with the NPS. The 46,000-member association organizes more than 70 bike tours each year, and provides maps and route information to bicycle adventurers. The agreement will promote user etiquette and safety while providing well-managed recreation and tourism opportunities. It also preserves the NPS’s authority to determine where and when bicycling is appropriate on park lands.

“It’s not a work plan – it doesn’t add bike lanes,” Turnbull said of the agreement. “It says 'here’s an opportunity for the Park Service to benefit from the knowledge of a highly competent national organization.' And it says to the cycling world: 'We appreciate your willingness to work through the many issues the National Park Service has to balance.'”

To read more, click here.

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