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National Parks Face $12B Infrastructure Backlog

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

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The National Park Service recently released a fiscal 2018 report that indicates around $12 billion in infrastructure work is currently under deferred maintenance, meaning potential safety threats for those who work in the parks as well as visitors. A bill to assist with funding these repairs was also recently proposed, however.

Some of the projects include $655 million in infrastructure repairs for the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and around $250 million needed for repairs to the Arlington Memorial Bridge to Arlington Cemetery. The U.S. has 419 national parks.

Infrastructure Repair Backlog

The NPS counts buildings, campgrounds and trails in its assessment of infrastructure and the $12 billion price tag of deferred maintenance. Wastewater systems specifically are looking at $290.3 million in deferred maintenance, water systems at $426.4 million, unpaved roads at $185.4 million, paved roads at $6.1 billion and all “other” (which includes dams, constructed waterways and railroads, among other systems), at $2.1 billion.

National Park Service, public domain

The National Park Service recently released a fiscal 2018 report that indicates around $12 billion in infrastructure work is currently under deferred maintenance, meaning potential safety threats for those who work in the parks as well as visitors. A bill to assist with funding these repairs was also recently proposed, however. (Pictured: Tamiami Trail in Everglades National Park, Florida.)

John Garder, of the National Park Conservation Association, noted that national parks are being visited in record numbers, but this also means additional strain on aging facilities.

"If you invest in fixing parks, there could be an additional 110,000 jobs for contractors, plumbers, masons and others working on some of the deferred maintenance projects," said Marcia Marcia Argust, project director for the Restore America's Parks division of the Pew Charitable Trust.

Some of the funding needed includes work on:

  • Work on the Arlington Memorial Bridge, where the deck has so eroded that if the bridge isn’t replaced soon, the FHWA will close the structure in 2021;
  • In the National Mall, the 120-year-old seawall of the tidal basin undergoes flooding dialing, which threatens the area’s well-known cherry trees; and
  • $100 million is needed to fix the water system along the south rim of the Grand Canyon, an outdate system that currently experiences 30 leaks a year.

Recent Grant Award

In June, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced that three national parks would receive $123.5 million in grants for infrastructure work. The money will go toward the repair and construction of small bridges in  6.5-mile section of US-41/Tamiami Trail at Everglades National Park; the repair of a section of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi and Alabama; and the reconstruction of a stretch of road near the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

“These grants will help modernize our aging transportation infrastructure, address a significant amount of our maintenance backlog, and improve overall visitor experience and access to our national parks,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith.

“Our more than 5,500 miles of paved roads bring in more than 300 million visitors annually, and it is a top priority to maintain and improve them.”

Bill Proposed

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, sponsored the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, which would deliver $6.5 billion for repairs to U.S. national parks using money from oil and gas tax royalties from drilling on federal land. Currently, more than 300 bipartisan supporters have stepped forward in the House.

The bill would deliver $1.3 billion in funding every year for five years, eventually totaling $6.5 billion, with 80% of the funding going to national park service sites. More than 318 million people visit national parks yearly.

"Passage of this bipartisan legislation would reprioritize our national parks, ensure that their historic and natural resources are well protected, and support visitors and the countless local economies that benefit from them,” said Theresa Pierno, of the National Parks Conservation Association.

   

Tagged categories: Funding; Government; Infrastructure; NA; National Park Service; North America; Program/Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair

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