Alexander Urges Interior Nominee David Bernhardt to Continue Support for Restore Our Parks Act

Posted on March 27, 2019

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WASHINGTON, D.C., March 27, 2019 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement after meeting with David Bernhardt – President Trump’s nominee to become the next United States Secretary of the Interior:

“It was good to meet with David Bernhardt and talk about the Foothills Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I told him if you want the best view of the highest mountains in the eastern United States, you’ll drive the Foothills Parkway.” Alexander said. “Thanks to decades of work by the National Park Service, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Department of Transportation, and the state of Tennessee, the Foothills Parkway will give millions who visit Tennessee every year an additional reason to enjoy our great outdoors. I look forward to continuing to work with the National Park Service and the community on new recreation and tourism opportunities surrounding the Foothills Parkway.”

“I also talked with him about the Restore Our Parks Act – legislation I introduced with Senators Portman, Warner, and King, that would be the biggest help to the National Park Service in 50 years,” Alexander said. “The legislation would cut in half the maintenance backlog at our national parks and help restore our 418 national parks so Americans can enjoy them. This is especially important to Tennessee, because our state is home to one of America’s greatest treasures – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is the most visited national park in the country and welcomed a record-setting 11.4 million visitors in 2018.”

Alexander continued: “I look forward to working with Mr. Bernhardt to see this legislation passed into law so that future generations can have the same opportunity to enjoy the great American outdoors as we have.”

The Restore Our Parks Act would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog in our 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.

Completion of the new section of the Foothills Parkway was a priority for Alexander when he was governor in the 1980s and the state Department of Transportation took the lead on a section of the parkway between Carrs Creek and Wears Valley.  As a U.S. senator, he supported the inclusion of $17.5 million for parkway construction in the 2005 federal highway bill.  Since then, he worked with his colleagues in Congress to help provide the funding necessary to complete the “missing link” – a 1.65 mile segment of the new 16-mile section comprised of nine bridges – and open this section of the parkway to the public. The Dean Stone Bridge is one of those nine bridges.

In 2016, the Tennessee Department of Transportation submitted a TIGER grant application to the U.S. Department of Transportation seeking federal funds to complete this 16-mile section of the Foothills Parkway. Alexander urged the U.S. Department of Transportation to approve the $10 million TIGER grant request, which it did on July 28, 2016. The state of Tennessee committed an additional $15 million in funding to complete the project. The National Park Service Federal Lands Transportation Program provided the remaining funding necessary to finish the 16 miles. 

Alexander is a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which will consider David Bernhardt’s nomination.