Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on November 17 announced new initiatives that will increase access, support jobs, and enhance the transportation experience on public lands across the country. At an event in Washington, D.C., the two Secretaries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will strengthen the Departments’ coordination regarding infrastructure investments and the deployment of innovative technologies at National Park Service-managed sites.
The MOU outlines priority initiatives – including innovative technology pilots, shared mobility integration, the electrification of major transit fleets, and additional electric vehicle charging stations – which will guide the Departments’ efforts to 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.
“As our national parks and public lands experience a surge of visitation, we must be innovative in our approaches to welcome people from every zip code, while also ensuring that we pass on these natural and cultural resources to future generations. Through this partnership with Transportation, our teams can advance the intersection of transportation innovations and access to public spaces,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “When we talk about and plan around access, we must do so with an eye toward equity. I look forward to working closely with Secretary Buttigieg and his team to ensure that sustainability and equitable access to parks and public lands remain hallmarks of our work.”
“Alongside the President’s historic bipartisan infrastructure law, today’s MOU will help improve transportation in our national parks and communities across America,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Haaland and the National Park Service, to keep our most prized natural wonders accessible and safe for all Americans.”
During the event, Secretaries Haaland and Buttigieg also highlighted how the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will make historic investments in modernizing our nation’s infrastructure, including on public lands and at national parks. At the Interior Department, the infrastructure deal provides for a five-year reauthorization of the Federal Transportation Program, which will help invest in repairing and upgrading National Park Service roads, bridges, trails and transit systems. The law also invests in projects that will help fund bridge replacements and resiliency, repair ferry boats and terminal facilities, and maintain wildlife crossings that keep people and surrounding wildlife safe.
Secretaries Haaland and Buttigieg toured an active trail construction project today along the Potomac River, which will improve safety and access for pedestrians and bicyclists by widening a trail, adding a protected tunnel, and enlarging and enhancing green space on the multi-use trail next to the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway. These trail improvements are funded in part by the Great American Outdoors Act, the landmark conservation law which creates jobs and provides needed maintenance for critical facilities and infrastructure across our public lands.
The Departments of the Interior and Transportation have had a long partnership for nearly 100 years, with what was then the Bureau of Public Roads. As the Bureau became modernized throughout the 20th century, major rehabilitation projects and new transit became possible at our nation’s most treasured sites, including at Acadia, Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks. Today’s announcement refreshes that partnership by focusing on generational investments in the newest innovation and technology.