Zion National Park awarded $33 million grant for new battery-electric shuttle fleet

This 2019 file photo shows an electric bus in Zion National Park, Utah. In 2019 the park received two battery-electric buses as a test for replacing the entire fleet | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News

SPRINGDALE — Zion National Park will receive $33 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to begin replacing its aged shuttle bus fleet with new battery-electric transit buses.

Buses parked at a shuttle stop with a light dusting of snow surrounding them, Zion National Park, Utah, Nov. 26, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Parks Transportation, Inc., St. George News

According to a press release from park officials, the fleet replacement project will couple funding through 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, the park’s official nonprofit partner.

The new fleet will include 26 battery-electric buses and 27 charging stations to replace the current propane-powered transit fleet. Engineering and service connections have been completed for the first phase of electric charging station installation in 2021. Delivery of new battery-electric buses will occur periodically over the next several years.

“We are incredibly grateful to our long-time partners at the Department of Transportation for their support in receiving this transformative grant funding investment,” National Park Service Deputy Director Shawn Benge said in the press release. “This project has universal and bipartisan support from local, state, and federal elected officials and demonstrates the NPS commitment on finding collaborative solutions for Zion’s visitors and neighboring communities.”

Zion Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said they are “so thankful” for the opportunity to begin replacement of the shuttle fleet

“The existing fleet has served us well for 21 years but has started to deteriorate with age and use,” he said. “The new equipment consists of quiet, zero-emission buses that will help to further improve the visitor experience and demonstrate National Park Service leadership in environmental sustainability.”

The Utah congressional delegation, state and local elected officials, and the Utah Clean Cities Coalition, among others, provided significant and steadfast support for this project and funding. The park’s leadership will continue to collaborate with them throughout this project.

The Zion Canyon Transportation System started operation in July 2000 with a fleet of 30 propane-powered low emission buses, operating on shuttle loops within the national park and the town of Springdale. The existing shuttle fleet accommodated more than 6 million passenger boardings in 2019.

This 2017 file photo shows visitors in line for shuttle access to Zion National Park, Utah, circa 2017 | File photo courtesy of Zion National Park, St. George News

The town of Springdale and the Utah Department of Transportation partnered with Zion National Park in standing up the original system and remain engaged, investing in safe, clean, multimodal transportation with visitor shuttles, parking for private vehicles and bicycle and pedestrian facilities through recent projects.

The Zion Canyon Shuttle system helps improve quality of life and access to tourism-related economic opportunity for rural Utah communities. Park visitors contribute more than $343 million to the regional economy, supporting over 4,300 private sector jobs. Visitation at the park is growing rapidly, and Zion recently surpassed Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks to become the fourth most visited National Park.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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