Mississippi stretch of Natchez Trace Parkway to get $54.3M improvements. Here's how.

·3 min read
After exploring the trails and bike paths along the Natchez Trace, a tourist can stop and gaze at the 33,000-acre lake that is located between Madison and Rankin Counties, and admire the historic forest trail that extends 440 miles from Nashville to Natchez.
After exploring the trails and bike paths along the Natchez Trace, a tourist can stop and gaze at the 33,000-acre lake that is located between Madison and Rankin Counties, and admire the historic forest trail that extends 440 miles from Nashville to Natchez.

WASHINGTON — A lengthy stretch of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi will undergo safety improvements after the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration awarded a $54.3 million grant to the National Park Service for the work.

The funding will be used to resurface, restore and rehabilitate the pavement condition of 83 miles of parkway in Mississippi and improve safety by installing audible pavement markings.

When the project is complete, the National Park Service expects to have a significantly improved roadway along a stretch of a historic transportation network used by those going to and from the seventh-most visited National Park Service facility in the nation.

“Through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’re now modernizing more of the infrastructure that creates opportunity in tribal communities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a Wednesday press statement. “Today, we’re proud to award over $54 million to resurface, restore, and rehabilitate over 80 miles of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi, making it safer and more resilient for all those who rely on it.”

The Natchez Trace Parkway is travelled by millions of people, supporting economic activity in the surrounding areas each year, officials said.

“The grant we’re providing to the National Park Service will bring safer travel and better access to recreational opportunities and natural and cultural resources along this parkway and help create good-paying construction jobs to get the work done,” said Acting Federal Highway Administrator Stephanie Pollack.

The Federal Highway Administration has worked closely with the National Park Service to improve infrastructure in and around national parks such as the Natchez Trace Parkway for decades, according to the FHWA’s press statement. That partnership has grown since the 2020 passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, which provided funding to improve and expand recreation opportunities in national parks and other public lands.

Funding for the grant announced Wednesday is being made possible through FHWA’s Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Project program and reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s focus on serving Tribal communities, officials said.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law made significant changes to the program by increasing annual authorizations from $100 million to $355 million and ensuring tribal transportation facilities receive 50% of the appropriated funds. Critically, Tribes can apply for funding at 100% federal share with no matching requirement, a historic barrier for Tribal access to infrastructure funding, according to the press release.

The program provides Federal funding for construction, reconstruction, or rehabilitation of multi-modal transportation facilities that are situated within, adjacent to, or provide access to Federal or Tribal lands.  A project of national significance is typically a higher cost project that federal land management agencies and tribal governments cannot normally afford to build because the project would exhaust their financial resources.

The project is also considered important to the well-being of the area where the project is located and surrounding community, supports safe access to popular recreation destinations such as National Parks, or provides critical transportation support for hospitals and schools on Tribal lands. Information on FHWA’s Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects Program, including the grants announced today, can be found here.

The Fiscal Year 2022 Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects NOFO application period will remain open through Oct. 24, 2022. Information on how to apply is available at Grants.gov.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Mississippi Natchez Trace Parkway $54.3 improvements coming.