U.S. Senate Committee Passes Transportation Bill To Increase Funding For National Park Roads, NPCA Reports
Yosemite National Park
Sierra Sun Times file photo
May 27, 2021 – Washington, DC – On Wednesday, the US Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works adopted Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act, 2021, a bipartisan bill that includes a 32% increase in funding for national parks. The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act, 2021 would authorize federal highway programs to provide $ 1.8 billion over five years to repair and upgrade crumbling roads, bridges and transportation systems in national parks across the country. This bill supports major investments to make our nation’s infrastructure more resilient to intensifying climate threats, curb climate pollution and offer common sense solutions to help reduce collisions between vehicles and wildlife that move within and beyond the park boundaries.
The national parks system comes next to the Department of Defense in the amount of federal infrastructure it manages, including 10,000 miles of publicly accessible roads and 1,440 bridges. Sadly, nearly 40 percent of the park’s roads are in poor condition and in need of repair, while many parks are also facing record numbers of visits. By meeting the transportation needs of our parks, we can ensure that visitors have the park experience they expect and deserve.
Investing in national park infrastructure is not only good for the visitor experience, it also benefits local economies. These places are an important part of the tourism economy, generating over $ 42 billion annually for the country’s economy. With national parks supporting more than 340,000 private sector jobs each year, these economic drivers deserve a solid investment in infrastructure in 2021 and beyond.
Main provisions of the park included in the invoice:
- Ensures an increase in annual Parks Service funding – an additional $ 464 million over the life of the five-year bill – through the Federal Lands Transportation Program, which provides funds to improve roads, bridges and more transport infrastructure in parks.
- Donates $ 55 million per year and up to $ 300 million per year to the Dominion Lands and Tribal Projects Program designed to address large repair projects in our parks. Previous projects funded under this program include the reconstruction of the Tamiami Trail in the Everglades and part of the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone.
- Provides $ 1.4 billion for the Federal Lands Access Program which provides funds to states and local entities to increase transportation and transit access to our federal lands, including national parks.
- Prioritizes sustainable and natural designs to improve the resilience of the park’s roads and bridges in the face of intensifying climate threats.
- Provides funds to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the country, with a focus on underserved and vulnerable communities, including those near national parks.
- It funds up-to-date research into the causes and consequences of collisions between wild vehicles and wild vehicles, including in-depth studies and reports to Congress.
- Establishes pilot grant program to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions through projects that protect motorists and wildlife.
Statement from Emily Douce, director of park operations and funding for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA):
âThis bipartisan legislation comes at a critical time for our national park system, as roads, bridges, tunnels and transportation systems are reaching breaking point in many parks across the country. We commend President Carper, Ranking Member Capito, Senators Cardin and Cramer, and the rest of the Environment and Public Works Committee for addressing the backlog of transportation projects across our country and for doing so. a way that reduces climate pollution, prioritizes resilient infrastructure, and protects our wildlife and their habitats.
âThe more than 320 million people who visit our national parks each year rely on park transportation systems to get them in, out and around our parks, from the more than 460 miles of roads along the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Harelquin Bridge across the Stehekin River at North Cascades National Park to the Zion National Park shuttles. But the transport infrastructure in too many parks is damaged, deteriorating, obsolete or threatened by the intensifying impacts of climate change.
“This bill is a big step in the right direction to provide essential funding to repair and protect these systems and ensure that millions of visitors can continue to experience and enjoy national parks now and for years to come.” . However, more efforts are needed to ensure that the public has a voice in projects that could impact their land, air and water. And moving forward, we encourage the committee to support funding for transit systems in and around national parks to help address congestion issues, reduce air pollution that drives climate change. and provide better access to less visited local parks.
âNow the Senate must work together to pass final legislation that will truly make our parks and communities stronger.
About the National Parks Conservation Association: For 100 years, the non-partisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in saving our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our country’s most iconic and inspiring places for future generations. For more information visit www.npca.org/100.