Zion National Park receives $33 million for electric shuttle buses
After years of fighting for funding, Zion National Park is set to receive $33 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to replace aging shuttles, the park announced on Tuesday. Reported by The Spectrum
The new fleet will consist of 26 battery-electric buses and 27 charging stations and will arrive at Zion within the next few years.
“The existing fleet has served us well for 21 years but has started to deteriorate with age and use,” park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said in a statement, saying the new buses “will help to further improve the visitor experience.”
Funding will consist of money from USDOT’s Nationally Significant Lands and Tribal Program with contributions from the National Park Service, Iron and Washington Counties and the Zion National Park Forever Project.
In 2019, the park applied for the Nationally Significant Lands and Tribal Program grant asking for $35 million but was denied.
For three years, the park was denied funds with little to no explanation as to why.
The current buses are over 20 years old, and well over half all of park entrance fees go to maintaining the system, totaling over $5 million per year, according to the park’s charity, Zion Forever.
After an investigative series by The Spectrum on Zion’s shuttles, park officials said another application was in the works for this fiscal year. In August, the park planned to apply for over $45 million to cover the entire cost of replacement.
The park will continue to work with Utah Clean Cities, which has designed the EV Zion program, as well as the Utah delegation.
“Clean electric buses will better distribute visitors around the park which will improve the visitor experience while simultaneously protecting the park’s unique natural resources.” U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said in a statement. “This has been years in the making and I am proud to have worked with local leaders to make this a reality.”
Utah Clean Cities Tammie Bostick “couldn’t be happier” about the announcement.
“The long-overdue monetary infusion for Zion National Park’s shuttle program is woefully overdue and much deserved,” she said. “This is the fleet of the future.”
Zion regularly receives more than 4 million visitors per year, making it the fourth-most visited U.S. National Park. It gets credited for contributing more than $343 million per year to the regional economy.
Zion Forever Director Mark Preiss was happy with the announcement and credited The Spectrum for bringing awareness to the project’s needs.
“Zion was a model 21 years ago, and Zion is again a catalyst for the next generation’s experience,” he said. “It reaffirms that rural vision and the stature that Zion has, nationally and internationally.”
Park officials said the “engineering and service connections” have been completed for the first phase of charging stations, set to be installed this year.
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