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The old Tamiami Trail roadway was originally broken through to restore flows of water into Everglades National Park on May 15, 2013.  (NPS Photo)

DOT's TIGER Grant Helps Our Ongoing Everglades Restoration From Sally Jewell, Interior Secretary

The Everglades in Florida is one of America’s great treasures, a natural wonder that is home to thousands of species of fish and wildlife and Indian tribes who have called these lands home for millennia. It is also one of our most imperiled ecosystems, threatened by loss of water quality, well-intentioned but ecologically damaging water control projects of the past, and invasive species – all further exacerbated by the effects of a changing climate.

In recent decades, the Department of the Interior has worked hand-in-hand with the State of Florida, other federal agencies, tribes, conservation groups, private landowners, and other stakeholders to restore this great treasure.  We established the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area to conserve one of America’s last grassland and longleaf pine savannah landscapes while preserving the traditional way of life cherished by those who live in this area.

Last week, the Department of Transportation announced another important step in this process, approving a $20 million TIGER grant to help construct a 2.6-mile bridge across US-41 – the Tamiami Trail – in Miami Dade County to restore the flow of water through the Everglades.  I commend the strong leadership of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and the State of Florida for making this critical restoration effort a priority.

This important federal funding, when combined with the $90 million invested by the State of Florida and contributions from other federal agencies, will enable engineers to correct the unintended consequences of the construction of the Tamiami Trail in the 1920s that is choking off water to the south while drowning important habitat like tree islands to the north.

This will be the second span of bridge to be constructed that will eventually allow water to flow under the Trail, breathing life back into the “River of Grass.” Under the tremendous leadership of Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service completed construction on a one-mile bridge in 2013 that will increase flows to Northeast Shark River Slough in Everglades National Park by 92 percent over current levels.

The completion of this second span will enable the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) to go forward. This massive project will capture and clean up water that is currently damaging estuaries to the north and will divert it south to flow under the Tamiami Trail bridges to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.

Today’s announcement is another excellent example of President Obama’s strong commitment to restoring the Everglades. Since the President took office in 2009, the Administration’s efforts have included:

•    Breaking ground on six major restoration projects and completed planning for four more, not only benefiting the Everglades and the people who have called it home for generations, but also providing thousands of jobs in South Florida.
•    Settling ongoing litigation between the State of Florida and the Environmental Protection Agency, leading to $880 million of new State funding and investment in water storage and treatment that will clean up the nutrient pollution entering the Everglades.
 •    Launching a fast-track planning effort for the Central Everglades that will ultimately lead to the authorization of the next generation of Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects to be implemented that will increase water supplies for the environment, tribes and other users.
•    Working with landowners and other stakeholders to establish the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area that will include a 50,000-acre publicly owned National Wildlife Refuge and 100,000 acres of land that will remain in private ownership under conservation easements or other less-than-fee protections.
 •    Banning the importation and interstate transportation of the Burmese python and certain other non-native constrictor snakes that threaten the Everglades and other sensitive ecosystems across the United States.

We still have a ways to go before we complete the restoration of the Everglades, but the many steps we have taken together with our partners, including DOT’s TIGER grant announcement, are moving us closer to the once-distant dream of a healthy “River of Grass.”

From: The Fast Lane, the Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Transportation

Read more about the TIGER Grant from U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

2015 Environmental Excellence Awards (EEAs) To Recognize Outstanding Environmental Stewardship

The next round of the EEAs will open August 15th. The 2015 EEA program marks the introduction of an expanded set of categories that will allow FHWA to recognize initiatives that protect and enhance both the natural and human environments.

These new categories reflect the integration of two former FHWA award programs – the Exemplary Ecosystem Initiatives (EEI) and Exemplary Human Environment Initiatives (EHEI) programs – into the EEAs. As in years past, the 2015 EEAs will promote awareness of the successes that States, agencies, and individuals can achieve by incorporating environmental excellence into their everyday work.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is committed to promoting environmental stewardship and streamlining transportation project delivery across the United States. As part of this commitment, FHWA's biennial Environmental Excellence Awards (EEA) program recognizes outstanding initiatives that incorporate environmental stewardship into the project planning and development processes.

Specifically, the EEA program honors agencies and individuals that exceed required environmental compliance for transportation projects; facilitate partnerships to promote environmental stewardship; and develop environmentally sensitive transportation innovations. Winning projects in past years have focused on supporting the use of renewable energy sources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preserving historic and cultural sites, considering ecological issues early in the transportation planning process, and streamlining environmental reviews.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) web site has full details on the program and application process.

Report Issued On Economic Impacts of Visitor Spending

According to a July 21, 2014 release by Jeffrey G. Olson, NPS Public Information Officer, national park visitors contributed $26.5 billion to the nation’s economy and supported almost 240,000 jobs in 2013, according to a report released by the National Park Service last week.

“National parks are often the primary economic engines of many park gateway communities,” Jarvis said. “While park rangers provide interpretation of the iconic natural, cultural and historic landscapes, nearby communities provide our visitors with services that support hundreds of thousands of mostly local jobs.”

National park visitation for 2013 declined by 3.2 percent compared to 2012. The 16-day government shutdown last October accounted for most of the decline. National parks in the Northeast, closed for Hurricane Sandy-related repairs, were the other significant brake on visitation.

Visitor spending for 2013 was down by 1 percent. The number of jobs supported by visitor spending was off by 2.1 percent, and the overall effect on the U.S. economy was 1 percent lower than the previous year due to adjustments for inflation.

“The big picture of national parks and their importance to the economy is clear,” Jarvis said. “Every tax dollar invested in the National Park Service returns $10 to the U.S. economy because of visitor spending in gateway communities near the 401 parks of the National Park System.”

Jarvis also said visitation so far this year indicates a rebound from 2013. “And we expect a continued surge in park visitors as more people get excited about the 2016 centennial of the National Park Service,” he said.

The annual report, entitled 2013 National Park Visitor Spending Effects, was prepared by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. It includes information by park and by state on visitor spending within 60 miles of a national park, jobs supported by visitor spending and other statistics. The report is available online.

According to the 2013 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (30.3 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.3 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent). The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

Pages with state-by-state information about national parks and how the National Park Service is working with communities are available at http://www.nps.gov/[statename] (for example, http://www.nps.gov/virginia).

Yellowstone (YELL) Begins Phase 1 of Major Road Upgrade Project

In early June, Yellowstone National Park kicked off a new project to widen a 16-mile stretch of road between Norris Geyser Basin and the Golden Gate area. The first phase of the project, which will cost approximately $20 million, will come out of the federal highway bill. Replacement of Yellowstone's figure-8 shaped Grand Loop route, begun in 1987, will eventually cost more than $1 billion according to park advocates. Congress is due to address the highway bill this fall when the current highway bill, Map-21, expires. "The problem we have now is largely inadequate funding," said Vic Knox, NPS's associate director for park planning, facilities, and lands. "A lot of our system was built between the 1930s and 1960s. There has been reconstruction, but it is an aging road system." The NPS has asked Congress to provide it $970 million annually for six years, a level it says would address " a national federal responsibility" as the agency celebrates its 100th anniversary, while also significantly reducing the cost of maintaining roads into the future.

Read a more in-depth report at Environment & Energy Publishing, Could Highway Bill Help Tackle Agency's $11.3B Maintenance Tab?

You can download the complete NPS request to Congress at the Reauthorization tab on this website.

Clean Cities National Parks Initiative

Clean Cities, a project of the U.S. Department of Energy, partners with the NPS through the Clean Cities National Parks Initiative to support transportation projects that educate park visitors on the benefits of cutting petroleum use and vehicle emissions. This initiative complements the NPS Climate Friendly Parks program by demonstrating the environmental benefits of cutting petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions. You can propose an NPS/Clean Cities project on this page.

TRB Report: Applying GPS Data to Understand Travel Behavior

The Transportation Research Board's (TRB) National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) has released Volume 2 of its Report 775: Applying GPS Data to Understand Travel Behavior—Guidelines. The report covers using multiple sources of Global Positioning System (GPS) data to understand travel behavior and activity. The guidelines are intended to provide a jump-start for processing GPS data for travel behavior purposes and provide key information elements that practitioners should consider when using GPS data..." You can still get Volume I of Report 775 at this page.

New FHWA Pedestrian-Bicyclist Research Underway

According to a June MAP-21 Research Quarterly Newsletter article, "...FHWA Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty's pedestrian and bicycle research agenda supports both Federal and State-level bicycle projects with new research that was slated to begin in early June. The efforts demonstrate FHWA's commitment to safety and the focus on pedestrian and bicycle networks in DOT's strategic plan. The research projects include:

· The Multimodal Conflict Points project will provide planning and design solutions needed in locations where various transportation modes come together...
· The Workbook on Building On-Road Bicycle Networks through Routine Resurfacing Programs will assist communities in jump starting on-road bicycle network creation by capturing opportunities as part of the routine resurfacing process.

A half-dozen additional research projects are listed on this page.

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