Update from the Public Lands Team - Spring 2015

SPRING 2015 | www.volpe.dot.gov/publiclands

Updates from the Public

Lands Team

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Gateway Arch viewed from downtown St. Louis

A view of the Gateway Arch from downtown St. Louis

National Park Service Studies Options to Connect Jefferson National Expansion Memorial to Downtown St. Louis

In St. Louis, Missouri, the National Park Service (NPS) is collaborating with the city to improve connectivity between downtown St. Louis, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial park (JEFF), and the Mississippi River as part of the City Arch River 2015 Initiative (CAR).  Volpe is supporting the NPS Denver Service Center (DSC) with a conceptual transit feasibility study as part of this effort.

JEFF, the location of the famous Gateway Arch, is in the midst of a major redesign to better connect it with the city. Together, NPS and St. Louis will build a park over Interstate 44 to connect JEFF to downtown, redesign a riverside boulevard to include a multi-use path, and replace a large parking garage at JEFF with park land. This project will alter how visitors access JEFF, which led to consideration of a transit circulator to ensure visitors’ continued access and mobility to and around JEFF.

For the conceptual circulator feasibility study, NPS DSC and Volpe analyzed existing conditions and circulator options and interviewed stakeholders. Volpe’s technical work on the project included review and analysis of existing transportation systems in St. Louis, draft route scenarios, vehicle analysis and recommendations, and operational and capital cost estimates. The project team organized a stakeholder workshop on November 6, 2014, to present circulator scenario ideas and collect feedback. More than 20 people from 10 organizations attended the workshop. The workshop discussion resulted in a redesign of the potential circulator route and, more importantly, greater stakeholder consensus on the need for a transit service. Volpe helped NPS DSC finalize a report recommending that NPS conduct a thorough feasibility study to assess a potential circulator route and vehicle options.

Project contact: Heather Richardson

Videos Help Public Lands Agencies Communicate with Internal and External Audiences

Public lands agencies have unique challenges communicating their projects and programs. Internally, agencies need to communicate with staff throughout the country with a range of job responsibilities and at different scales (national, regional, and local). Externally, agencies must reach potential partners, stakeholders, and the general public.

How can public lands agencies reach these diverse audiences, in a way that catches their attention? This is especially challenging because agency staff and stakeholders are very busy, with many different claims on their attention.

Volpe has been working with its public lands sponsors to develop communications materials that address these challenges. Recently, Volpe’s public lands team has created a number of short, engaging videos that are part of larger outreach strategies. For example:

  • NPS Staff Outreach on Novel Funding Opportunities: Volpe staff developed a five-minute video that provides staff throughout NPS with information about funding opportunities such as the Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) and Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). This video complements a series of white papers and program information as part of a larger outreach strategy to regional and unit-level NPS staff.
  • Pacific Northwest Federal Lands Collaborative Long-Range Transportation Plan Outreach Video: Working with the multi-agency project team for the Pacific Northwest Federal Lands Collaborative Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRTP), Volpe created a video that explains the goals and purpose of the CLRTP in a concrete, easy-to-understand way. The video is meant to support outreach to the general public, interested stakeholders, and internal agency audiences. The video particularly focuses on the tangible ways that federal lands transportation systems matter to visitors and residents in the Pacific Northwest.

The Public Lands Team believes that these communications are an important part of its work and is encouraging Volpe staff and sponsors to think more creatively about how to communicate projects. Volpe recently purchased two small video cameras for staff to bring on site visits and hopes to bring more public lands work to life through future communications support.

Project contacts: Alex Linthicum and Ryan Yowell

Central New Mexico Partners Complete Climate Change Scenario Planning Project

Flooding warning in Albuquerque

Sign warning of potential road flooding on the historic Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Planning for a growing region – especially an arid one like Albuquerque, New Mexico – requires regional collaboration to address challenges of congestion, sprawl, energy use, vehicle emissions, water scarcity, and climate change. How can agencies incorporate climate change into their planning despite uncertainty in climate, population growth, and other local conditions? The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) asked Volpe to help coordinate the Central New Mexico Climate Change Scenario Project (CCSP) to provide insights on this challenge.

A follow-up to a similar scenario planning pilot on Cape Cod, the Central New Mexico CCSP considered climate change in an arid, non-coastal setting, within the context of the region’s metropolitan transportation planning process. Volpe coordinated this multi-agency collaboration between FHWA, the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG), the NPS, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), and other local and federal partners.

Project Accomplishments

Through the CCSP, project participants achieved the following outcomes:

  • Climate Futures Analysis: In collaboration with NPS and BOR, Volpe developed a tool to create multiple possible scenarios for temperature and precipitation changes in the region based on the BOR’s downscaled climate change projections. The project team used this tool to create multiple possible “climate futures” for the Albuquerque region. This tool can also be used at other locations in the U.S.
  • Metropolitan Transportation Plan Integration: MRCOG used the “climate futures” results and analysis of the potential impacts of climate change on local transportation and land use to inform the development of Futures 2040, its long-range transportation plan update.
  • BLM Unit-Level Analysis: Volpe adapted the CCSP’s regional climate change analysis to assess the implications for the BLM’s Rio Puerco Field Office. The resulting report was designed to inform the BLM’s current travel and transportation management planning process at this unit.
  • FWS Case Studies: Volpe supported FWS by developing two short case studies for internal and external audiences on how the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge is collaborating with regional partners and preparing for climate change.
  • Final Report: Volpe developed a final report that presents the CCSP’s findings, methodologies, and lessons learned. This report also serves as a guidebook for other agencies who wish to incorporate climate change into their regional planning efforts.

 Project contact: Benjamin Rasmussen

Volpe Assists National Park Service with Marine Transportation Challenges

Water is a natural feature celebrated by many public lands. In some cases it is also a transportation asset that poses unique opportunities and challenges for public lands agencies. Planning maritime transportation systems requires specialized skills to understand the requirements, costs, and regulations that oversee this industry.  Because Volpe has maritime engineering expertise supporting the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army, and the Maritime Administration, Volpe staff have recently supported a number of NPS units manage their water transportation systems.

Isle Royale National Park (ISRO) – Vessel Repair / Replacement Analysis

ISRO is a remote island archipelago in Lake Superior, fourteen miles from the closest mainland and 60 miles from the park’s headquarters in Houghton, Michigan. Visitors come to ISRO for its beauty and solitude, but its remote location makes transportation costly and difficult for NPS, resulting in the highest per visitor cost of all NPS park units ($170).

Currently, ISRO relies on a 55-year-old vessel named Ranger III to transport cargo and passengers from the park’s headquarters. With Ranger III at the end of its useful life, ISRO asked Volpe to study alternative operational concepts to continue transportation services in a cost-efficient manner. After documenting the park’s current and projected transportation needs and applicable regulations, Volpe developed six alternatives that would support the park’s transportation needs under different future visitation scenarios. These options included:

  • Upgrading Ranger III
  • Building a new Ranger IV
  • Splitting cargo and passenger transportation operations to different vessels
  • Concessioner-operated and NPS-operated options

Volpe analyzed each alternative to determine how much redundancy they provided for each of ISRO’s transportation needs, capital and annual operating and maintenance costs, potential risks, and necessary implementation steps.  Volpe’s study provided ISRO with the background material and recommended next steps for choosing a preferred alternative and identifying funding for these major capital expenditures.

Ranger III at ISRO

Ranger III at ISRO

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (APIS) – Alternatives Analysis for Operational Maritime Transportation

Volpe recently assisted APIS by analyzing alternatives for meeting the park’s operational transportation needs. APIS, which consists of 12 miles of mainland and 21 islands in Lake Superior, relied on an amphibious landing craft to transport equipment and materials to and from the park’s islands until 2012, when the vessel was put out of service due to poor condition. Since then, APIS has relied on a contractor, but the park is bound to the contractor’s vessel schedule and does not have a backup if its vessel is not available.

To help APIS decide how best to meet its operational needs, Volpe analyzed seven transportation options that would allow APIS to accomplish its mission. These options included acquiring a new or used landing craft, contracting for landing craft services, and partnering with other parks to share transportation services. Volpe estimated capital, operating, and labor costs for each option over time periods of five to 25 years. Volpe’s study showed that over the 25-year time frame, owning a landing craft would be twice as cost effective as contracting for the service. This study will help APIS make decisions for future operational transportation. 

Lowell National Historical Park (LOWE) – Vessel Procurement Support

Lowell National Historical Park, located in Lowell, Massachusetts, features a system of historic, industrial locks and canals along the Merrimack River. In 2012, Volpe supported the park to develop design specifications for a boat and new docks for their boat tours. Volpe helped the park determine whether there were appropriate vessels available via the General Services Administration or the used boat market and assisted with identifying and completing the environmental permitting required for the docks.

Project contacts: Frances Fisher

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The Public Lands Team shares Updates twice a year to highlight recent activities and news.

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About the Public Lands Team

Primarily organized within Volpe's Center for Policy, Planning, and Environment, our team helps federal land management agencies resolve complex transportation challenges at both the program and project levels.

Our work draws on expertise in a variety of fields, including policy and program development, multimodal systems planning, alternative fuels and vehicle selection, environmental compliance, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

You can read more about our team here.

About the Volpe Center

The Volpe Center, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, develops transportation innovations for the public good. Part of the U.S. DOT’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, Volpe partners with public and private organizations to assess the needs of the transportation community, evaluate research and development, assist in the deployment of transportation technologies, and inform decision- and policy-making.

Contact the Public Lands Team

For questions, general information, or to speak with us about getting started on a new project, please contact Eric Plosky at (617) 494 - 2785 or volpepubliclands@dot.gov.

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