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Transportation Toolkit for Federal Land Managers

Project #: 428466
Start Date: 02/01/2001
End Date: 04/30/2004
Status: Completed

One important group of stakeholders in understanding the needs of America’s rural transportation system is Federal lands, including National Parks. The Federal government manages significant portions of rural land, much of which serves as destinations for tourism and recreation. 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, lack of ability to expand parking and similar issues. A variety of problems may result from these constraints, including potential resource damage, 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. The lack of background in transportation may hinder Federal land managers from appreciating and implementing various transportation solutions – both “traditional” traffic engineering measures as well as 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 purpose of this project is to provide Federal land managers with greater awareness of the tools available to solve transportation challenges in their jurisdiction, and to understand the next steps needed to pursue implementation of these solutions.


This project will result in tools that will help Federal land managers to identify solutions – both traditional and ITS – that will help address transportation challenges, and ultimately improve the visitor experience and resource management.


  • Chris Strong
    Chris Strong