Transit Grants to Fix Natl. Parks’ ‘Potholes’
Click here to read an earlier story on this topic in Woodall’s Campground Management.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made a rare visit to Glacier National Park on Monday (Feb. 18) to announce a $250,000 grant that will allow park officials to purchase two new passenger buses for the free shuttle service along Going-to-the-Sun Road.
LaHood announced the federal grant during a news conference at the Apgar Transit Center in West Glacier, and emphasized the importance of investing in the country’s infrastructure and improving transit services “if these national parks are going to be accessible to us,” The Missoulian, Missoula, Mont., reported.
“Senior citizens have as much right to enjoy the parks as young backpackers,” LaHood said.
The Glacier Park grant is one of 29 federal projects in 20 states to improve access to the country’s national parks, forests and wildlife refuges. Together, the grants total $12.5 million and will help reduce traffic congestion and make it easier for millions of visitors to enjoy the nation’s scenic federal lands, LaHood said.
The funds are provided through the Federal Transit Administration’s Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in the Parks program, which awarded $40.8 million for similar projects in January 2012. They are part of $80 million distributed to 134 Transit in the Parks projects across the country over the past three years
“We are investing in America’s transportation system and there is no better place to do that than in the stunning scenery of Glacier National Park,” LaHood said. “These two new buses will make sure that transit inside the park is reliable and viable.”
LaHood, who said recently he will step down as transportation secretary at the end of the year, delivered Monday’s announcement alongside FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff and Glacier Park’s acting Superintendent Kym Hall.
Transit services inside national parks are a critical component to good management, LaHood said, particularly as visitation continues to rise while funding for parks diminishes.
“Americans are taking advantage of our national parks in huge numbers and transportation is a critical aspect of managing our lands and keeping congestion down during the busy season,” he said.
Park officials estimate that 35,000 visitors and 13,000 vehicles pass through Glacier Park’s gates every day during the peak summer season, and the two new American-made passenger buses will be added to the fleet of aging shuttles, which Hall said are increasingly in need of servicing and repairs.
Glacier provides a free and heavily used shuttle service along the park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor.
LaHood said the country has fallen behind in its commitment to infrastructure and modernizing its transit services – shortcomings that have affected national parks and scenic lands.
“We’re not No. 1 anymore because we have not made the investment in transportation. Frankly, America is one big pothole right now and we need to invest in infrastructure,” he said.
The transportation secretary said the new buses will reduce traffic congestion along the 50-mile road while alleviating parking shortages at Apgar Village and improving safety and efficiency.
“In his State of the Union address last week, President (Barack) Obama called on us to upgrade our nation’s transportation infrastructure to help grow our economy and improve energy efficiency,” said Secretary LaHood. “Improving access to modern transit services in Glacier National Park and other scenic parklands around the country will help us preserve these national treasures for future generations.”
Rogoff said an effective and modernized transportation system goes a long way toward improving visitor experiences at national parks.
“Visitors to Glacier National Park should be able to explore this stunning area without getting stuck in traffic or breathing harmful emissions,” Rogoff said. “By modernizing transit in our parks, we’re making it easier for people to get around, while ensuring that these areas are sustainable for years to come.”