PENINSULA, Ohio (AP) – Federal officials Monday announced 42 grants totaling almost $20 million to reduce traffic in America’s national parks and public lands by providing alternative transit including trains, shuttle buses and bicycle trails.

The goal of the Alternative Transportation in the Parks and Public Lands program is to reduce pollution and congestion and preserve parklands and wildlife areas while increasing access for visitors, including the disabled.

The grants were announced inside the scenic 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park by Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett and Federal Transit Administrator James Simpson. The officials climbed aboard the park’s historic train for a tour after the announcement, which included $898,000 in grants for upgrades to the rail.

The biggest of the grants included $4.7 million to buy rail cars for the Chugach National Forest in Alaska, $1.4 million for propane-powered buses for Maine’s Acadia National Park and $1.2 million for a replacement boat dock at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

The various inaugural grants in the four-year program “will have a nationwide impact,” said U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, who co-sponsored the original legislation creating the Cuyahoga Valley park, Ohio’s only national park.

Scarlett and Simpson said the grants eventually will total $97 million by 2009.

“More visitors enjoy our parks and public lands each year, and this program provides an additional tool to help enhance the visitor experience,” Scarlett said.

The Cuyahoga Valley park, located between Cleveland and Akron, drew more than 2.5 million visitors last year.

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AP-ES-08-28-06 1719EDT

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