Senator Lamar Alexander said the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a spending bill that takes an important step in addressing the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks — including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
He said, “Nearly half of the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks is roads. In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 80 percent of the park’s maintenance backlog is roads. This bill takes an important step towards fixing some of those park roads by increasing funding for important road construction projects in our national parks. It is my hope that the Senate soon takes the next step and passes our bipartisan legislation to help restore and rebuild our national parks by cutting in half the $12 billion maintenance backlog, which would do more to restore national parks than anything that has happened in the last half century.”
Senator Alexander introduced the Restore Our Parks Act with U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Angus King (I-ME) on February 14, 2019. The legislation would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog in our national parks by allocating existing revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury not to exceed $1.3 billion each year for the next five years.
Senator Alexander said, “This bill also provides critical funding for Tennessee projects and priorities – such as helping build roads and bridges, supporting housing needs and enhancing aviation safety at Jackson, Millington and Smyrna.
“Additionally, this bill includes funding for programs authorized in the Support for Patients and Communities Act – legislation I sponsored and President Trump signed into law to help states and local communities fight the opioid crisis. This funding supports a pilot program for recovery housing that helps prevent relapse and sustain recovery for those with substance use disorders.”
On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2020 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which includes:
· $46.3 billion for the Federal-aid highway program to support road and bridge construction nationwide.
· $100 million for the Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects (NSFLTP) Program, which provides funding for the construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of major projects on Federal or tribal lands. The program provides an opportunity to address significant transportation projects in our national parks, such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
· $1 billion for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants, which were formally known as Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants. The BUILD program awards competitive grants to communities in Tennessee and across the country to fund significant transportation projects, including highways and bridges, public transportation systems, passenger and freight railroads and port infrastructure.
· $3.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which provides funding to low and moderate-income communities to support economic development, housing and infrastructure needs in Tennessee and across the country.
· The bill fully funds the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Contract Tower Program, which will enhance aviation safety at Jackson, Millington and Smyrna.
The Fiscal Year 2020 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill is consistent with the spending limits included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 approved by Congress, and signed by President Trump, in August. The legislation is now ready to be considered by the full Senate.