|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||May 18, 2005|
|Contact:||Laura Loomis, NPCA, 202-454-3918; 703-447-6484 (cell)|
Just in Time for SummerTraffic Jams in National Parks
WASHINGTON, D.C. - With Memorial Day just around the corner—for most, the official start of summer—thousands of Americans are planning summer vacations and many will consider national parks as venues for family getaways. But like the more than 276 million that visited national parks last year, visitors heading out to the parks this year can expect unsafe roads and traffic jams.
However, the U.S. Senate yesterday offered hope for improved park road conditions by passing its version of the transportation reauthorization bill (TEA-21) and approving $330 million for the Park Roads and Parkways program. The nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation’s leading park advocacy group, applauds these efforts in the Senate to get transportation funding out of a pothole and to improve road and travel conditions in the national parks.
“The Senate’s request for annual funding for park roads is right on the money, but there are still major differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill,” said Laura Loomis, NPCA senior director. “In order to ultimately improve travel and road conditions in the national parks, it will be critical that the level of funding in the Senate bill is maintained during the upcoming conference.”
The Park Roads and Parkways program provides most of the funding for road and transit improvements in the national parks. Increased funding will help to: relieve traffic congestion, especially prevalent during high-visitation seasons like the summer; address deteriorating park road conditions—65% of the more than 5,000 miles of paved roads in the national parks are in poor to fair condition—and; give park visitors who want to get out of their cars more options, like riding bikes in the parks, hiking, or hopping aboard shuttle buses.
The National Park Service faces a crippling maintenance backlog—a large portion of which includes pending transportation projects. The estimated transportation repair backlog exceeds $3 billion. For instance, Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado needs transportation dollars to repair Trail Ridge Road, which grants visitors access to the park’s rich scenery and massive grandeur. Similarly, funds are needed to repair Keys View Road in Joshua Tree, Glacier Point Road in Yosemite, and Bonnie Clare Road in Death Valley. The main park road in the Everglades National Park in Florida awaits roadway drainage improvements and with frequent summer rainstorms, existing road conditions will only worsen with additional damage.
Recently NPCA released a report, Faded Glory: Top 10 Reasons to Reinvest in America’s National Park Heritage, which cites ten areas in which to reinvest in our national parks—ensuring safe park roads chief among them.
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