Planning under way to address traffic woes here

To address backups at the South Entrance and traffic in the park, officials have begun an environmental assessment for a South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan. A 45-day public scoping began Friday and will run through May 1.

The Park Service is the lead agency for the plan, with the Forest Service as cooperating agency. The Forest Service is involved because preliminary discussions centered on a side access road through the forest.

During this period the NPS is inviting the public, agencies and other interested parties to provide comments, suggestions and input regarding the project scope, issues and potential solutions related to alleviating traffic and visitor access concerns at the South Rim.

Officials also plan four public meetings in open house format, with one in Tusayan on Wednesday, April 12, at the Squire Inn, from 4:30-8:30 p.m. Meetings are also planned in Las Vegas on April 5, Phoenix on April 6 and Flagstaff on April 11.

The purpose of the South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan is to provide a transportation system that addresses the park's most pressing traffic issues, including long waits at the South Entrance Station, visitor vehicle and tour bus parking demand that exceeds supply, traffic congestion on park roads and in parking lots; poor directional signage and visitor access to Canyon View Information Plaza (CVIP) ­ the park's visitor orientation center.

The plan would accommodate current and anticipated levels of visitation to the South Rim through 2020, facilitate enhanced visitor experiences, and protect park resources. The transportation system would be adaptively managed to respond to changes in visitation through the life of the plan and would not preclude other future transportation systems from being implemented, including those that may be required for substantial increases in visitation.

A portion of the park's entrance fees would be used to fund the transportation system.

Officials hope the plan will reduce traffic in the park by 15-25 percent, cut waiting time at the South Entrance Station, get more visitors to use the park transist system and CVIP and create less of an accident hazard at view points and parking lots.

Last June, NPS transmitted a range of transit solutions in their Report to Congress on Transit Alternatives.

In these options the transit system would be mandatory for all day use visitors. Regional Rail was also evaluated. The first phase included a high speed express train from Williams to Grand Canyon Village and a second phase included a light rail system from Tusayan to CVIP.

Option A was developed and included in the Report, when the NPS became concerned that the costs of Options 1-5 and Regional Rail were prohibitive.

Option A addressed some of the principles of the other options, but focused on the park's most pressing transportation needs, included an optional rather than mandatory shuttle bus system for day-use visitors and would be considerably less costly than the other options.

Option A from the report is considered a starting point, or a Preliminary Project Alternative. It includes a large parking facility at CVIP, a parking facility north of Tusayan with bus transit to CVIP, and an express bypass lane for buses and residents from the new lot to north of the South Entrance Station.

Additional information on the plan is available at www.nps.gov/grca/compliance. For information on the public scoping process, visit http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grca. You can also call Project Manager Vicky Stinson at 928-774-3026. Submit comments on line or mail to Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park, Attn: Office of Planning and Compliance, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, Ariz. 86023

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