|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||July 29, 2005|
|Contact:||NPCA Senior Director Laura Loomis, 202-454-3918|
Congress Approves Alternative Transportation Program for National Parks
Washington, D.C. - The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today praised the passage of the Transit in Parks Act, which authorizes approximately $24 million annually for six years to develop new and expanded mass transit services, pedestrian walkways, and bike paths within and near the national parks and other public lands.
“Congressman Rahall and Senator Sarbanes are champions for our national parks and for the 300 million people who visit annually,” said NPCA Vice President for Government Affairs Craig Obey. “Thanks to their leadership, the National Park Service can afford to bring relief to parks and visitors suffering from traffic congestion and choking on fumes.”
Led by Senator Paul S. Sarbanes (D-MD) and Rep. Nick Rahall (D-3-W.VA), the Transit in Parks Act provides an average of $24 million annually starting in 2006 for national parks and public lands to adopt shuttle bus transportation systems or even pedestrian walkways, bike paths, and waterborne access. The Park Service currently allocates, on average, $8.5 million annually for alternative transportation programs from a meager $165-million construction and road maintenance budget funded by the Federal Lands Highway Program.
As the number of park visitors has increased over the years, national park budgets have failed to keep pace, causing visible stress on park resources and infrastructure. NPCA’s new report, Faded Glory: Top 10 Reasons to Reinvest in America’s National Park Heritage, points out that insufficient funding limits the ability of the Park Service to manage traffic congestion, maintain roads and trails, and provide visitors with safe transportation options such as bike paths.
For example, at Grand Canyon National Park, nearly 6,000 vehicles may arrive in a single summer day, competing for 2,400 parking spaces. At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most popular national park in the country, 9 million people annually crowd park roads. It can take visitors as long as four hours to drive the 11-mile loop road through the picturesque and popular Cades Cove area of the park, which is a 40-minute trip in the off-season.