Transportation in National Parks

If you’ve ever driven along the Blue Ridge Parkway, hopped on a shuttle along the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier, taken the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, or hiked along the Half Dome Trail in Yosemite, you’ve experienced some of the wide variety of transportation infrastructure found in our national parks.

What’s “transportation infrastructure”? It’s the roads, bridges, tunnels, and trails that allow you to access the treasures in our national parks with your car, bike, or feet. And it’s also the trolleys, shuttles, ferries, and other public transportation options that give you access to national parks when you decide to leave your car behind.

In fact, the National Park Service transportation system includes:

  • 5,500 miles of publicly accessible paved roads
  • 4,100 miles of publicly accessible unpaved roads
  • 1,442 publicly accessible bridges
  • 63 publicly accessible tunnels
  • 147 buses, ferries, and other alternative transportation systems
  • 17,872 miles of trails

Roads, bridges, and transit are integral parts of the national park experience. However, they are also facing the challenge that the system as a whole is facing – lack of funding to maintain them. In 2014, the deferred transportation maintenance deficit is more than $6 billion, over half of the $11.3 billion total deferred maintenance backlog faced by the National Park Service.

Deferred maintenance of park transportation systems is affecting park visitors in very real ways. Of the over 9,000 miles of park roads, 40 percent are in poor to fair condition, as are 77 percent of parking areas. Bridges built in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s are aging and will require increasingly greater funds to maintain and reconstruct.

Traditionally, the building, operation, maintenance, and improvement of the national park transportation system has been supported with funds from the Highway Trust Fund. The national parks are currently receiving $240 million from that fund but the National Park Service estimates it really needs closer to $970 million to adequately maintain, improve, and complete its roads, bridges, trails, and transit systems.

The federal transportation law, MAP-21, was due to expire on Sept. 30, 2014.  On July 30, Congress extended the law until May 2015.  Congress is working on its successor and NPCA is actively working with our allies to ensure the roads, bridges, trails, and transit in our national parks get the funding they need and deserve.

Learn more about the transportation needs and funding opportunities in our national parks:


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