Transportation Toolkit for Federal Lands Managers

Abstract: One important group of stakeholders in understanding the needs of America’s rural transportation system is Federal lands, including the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of Land Management. Federal lands are a popular destination for tourists, not only from counties immediately adjacent to these lands, but also from other states and even other countries. Unlike many tourist destinations, Federal lands are typically bound by significant legal constraints based on their need to preserve and protect natural, cultural and historical resources. Maintaining the balance between the demand for increased visitation and the need to preserve resources can be challenging. One area in which this balancing act has important consequences is the transportation system. Within a Federal land, there may be significant constraints on the transportation infrastructure, including gate capacity, vehicle length and weight restrictions, right-of-way limits, congestion at popular sites, lack of ability to expand parking and similar issues. A variety of problems may result from these constraints, including potential resource damage, noise and air pollution, slower emergency response, and a degraded visitation experience. While these issues may be to a certain extent addressed within a particular Federal land, many potential solutions will not be effective without integration and coordination with adjacent federal lands, gateway communities and counties. Therefore, consideration also needs to be given to how the transportation system within the land integrates with the surrounding transportation infrastructure.The primary mission of managers of the Federal lands is to preserve the resources and provide for the public enjoyment of the resources within their boundaries. Staffing decisions are typically made on this basis, with most lands focusing on adding staff specialized in wildlife, botanical, and archeological fields with typically little background in transportation. This lack of background in transportation may hinder Federal land managers from appreciating and implementing various transportation solutions – including “traditional” traffic engineering measures, alternative systems such as transit, and advanced technology or intelligent transportation systems (ITS) solutions – that may allow for both increased visitation and resource preservation. Traditional solutions may have had some implementation in rural settings including Federal lands in recent decades; nevertheless, these solutions may not be well known to those who have not been trained in transportation. ITS solutions will likely have little recognition among Federal lands managers, because these systems have typically been deployed in urban areas to address congestion, safety and traveler information.The primary goal of this research project is to develop a decision support system that can help to analyze and resolve transportation challenges in Federal lands. The goal of this project is neither to replace engineering judgment that would be required for any transportation improvement in a Federal land nor to comprehensively address all challenges that a Federal land may have. While it is hoped that the package would be able to provide an answer for whatever challenges a Federal land faces, the product resulting from this project may have a few “dead ends”, where the user is referenced to other documentation or resources. If additional funding is acquired, future phases of the project could then expand the toolkit in these areas.

Sponsoring Organization: Federal Highway Administration - Federal Lands Highway Division

Completion Date: 3/1/2006

Additional Project Information: