Cooperative Agreement Benefits State, County, and National Park
Flathead County, MN, the State of Montana, and the National Park Service (NPA) are already seeing positive results from a new partnership that was signed into effect this winter with the purchase of eight new 23-passenger buses and 22 12-passenger vans.
These buses will be used on the Going-to-the-Sun Road (Sun Road) in Glacier National Park during summer months and by Flathead County’s Eagle Transit and other Montana transit service providers the remainder of the year as part of an unprecedented cooperative agreement between Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), Flathead County, and Glacier National Park.
This cooperative agreement laid the groundwork for a joint venture between the three entities for the purchase and shared use of the vehicles. The buses and vans will be used beginning in summer 2007 as part of the new Sun Road shuttle system and elsewhere in Montana for the rest of the year.
The fleet of 30 shuttle vehicles cost a total of $4 million from funds made available to the NPS for Sun Road mitigation and from MDT through funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s portion of the 2005 Transportation Act (SAFETEA-LU). All totaled, the NPS contributed $2.1 million and MDT contributed $1.9 million for the purchases. The NPS will also contribute $385,000 to Eagle Transit for operation of the fleet. Ongoing shuttle operations will be supported through a $5 set aside from park entrance fees.
Fresh off the Dodge DaimlerChrysler assembly line in North Carolina, the fleet of smaller alpine section 12-passenger Sprinters arrived at the park in January. More recently, a purchase order has been signed for the purchase of the eight large-capacity buses. The low emission, bio-diesel buses were manufactured by Optima Bus LLC of Wichita, KS.
The Sun Road shuttle buses will be phased into operation in July 2007. All buses will include distinctive Glacier National Park mountain scenery artwork, with the smaller fuel-efficient Sprinters operating on the narrow and winding alpine route and the larger buses operating on the other two routes.
The final cooperative agreement was signed this winter by MDT Director Jim Lynch, Flathead County Commissioner Joe Brenneman, Glacier National Park Superintendent Mick Holm, and procurement officers for respective agencies.
“The NPS is very grateful to the MDT and Flathead County for their willingness to share in this collaborative venture,” said Holm. “This agreement allows for the sharing of limited resources for the common benefit of Glacier National Park visitors, the Montana cooperators and Montanans in general; we view this as a win-win solution.”
Holm added, “Rather than sit in storage, unused for much of the year; the buses will be used elsewhere in Montana to meet local transportation needs.”
Months of discussions culminated with a final document wherein the participating agencies agree to cooperate in the funding, development, and implementation of a project that will:
• Provide a transit shuttle system that will facilitate the completion of the rehabilitation of the Sun Road on schedule and with minimum impacts to the environment, area communities, alternative routes, and the public;
• Maximize transportation services for Sun Road users by coordinating road construction, traffic management, and transit operations to minimize congestion and maximize the availability of information for travel planning;
• Benefit the public by providing improved access to public transportation within Glacier National Park and elsewhere in Montana;
• Maximize the efficiency of the transit shuttle system by taking advantage of transit planning, management and operations capabilities of existing area transit providers;
• Maximize the effectiveness of limited funding by combining funding from several sources, and;
• Maximize resource protection and environmental sustainability by using alternative fuels where practical in the operation of the shuttle vehicles.
“One additional key advantage for such a cooperative agreement is that it provides the flexibility to change as construction and visitor needs evolve,” said Holm. “This will be especially important in the first few seasons as the shuttle system gets up and running.”
According to Jim Lynch, MDT director, “We work hard to make the most of every tax dollar. Ongoing partnerships like this leverage funding and enable each agency to better serve the public.”
MDT and Glacier National Park first joined forces when the two agencies announced in September 2005 a cooperative agreement to include park road information on the Montana 511 Traveler Information network.