The U.S. Department of Transportation and Department of the Interior signed a memorandum of understanding or MOU on November 17 to improve coordination on infrastructure investments and mobility technologies at National Park Service-managed sites.
[Above photo by the Interior Department]
The MOU outlines priority initiatives – including innovative technology pilots, shared mobility integration, the electrification of major transit fleets, and additional electric vehicle charging stations – to help the departments jointly build “world-class transportation systems” that provide enhanced access for car-free trips, interpretation, education, and enjoyment opportunities to visitors who want to experience public lands.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg signed the MOU during a press event in Washington, D.C., and both highlighted how the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA would help make “historic investments” in modernizing America’s infrastructure, including on public lands and at national parks.
For example, Haaland noted in a statement that the infrastructure deal provides for a five-year reauthorization of the Federal Transportation Program, which funds repairs and upgrades to National Park Service roads, bridges, trails, and transit systems.
The IIJA also invests in projects that that help fund bridge replacements and resiliency, repair ferries and terminal facilities, and maintain wildlife crossings that keep people and surrounding wildlife safe.
The MOU also complements the $1.6 billion the Interior Department is investing this year to address critical deferred maintenance projects, while improving transportation and recreation infrastructure in national parks, national wildlife refuges, recreation areas, and at Bureau of Indian Education schools.
That funding comes from the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund established in 2020 by the Great American Outdoors Act, which provides up to $1.6 billion annually for five years to help address a multi-billion-dollar deferred maintenance backlog at national parks, on other public lands, and at tribal schools.
USDOT and Interior also have a long history of cooperative work when it comes to transportation projects. The latest, finished in December 2020, involved a three-year, $277 million renovation of the 2,613-foot-lon Arlington Memorial Bridge that links Washington D.C. directly to Arlington National Cemetery in Northern Virginia.
That renovation project – the bridge’s first major repair effort in nearly a century – repaired the bridge’s concrete arches and stone facades on 10 approach spans, replaced the bascule span’s 4 million-pound steel superstructure with a 2.6-million-pound fixed steel span, and resurfaced all its travel lanes.