Shuttle eyed to boost tourism in the National Road Heritage Corridor
By Mary Pickels
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
The National Road Heritage Corridor is soliciting consultants to undertake a study to determine if a shuttle bus could assist tourists in the region.
The feasibility study would include implementation of a pilot program in sections of Fayette and Westmoreland counties.
“Transportation linkage was part of our original management-action plan, written in the 1990s,” Donna Holdorf, executive director of the group, said Tuesday.
The goal dovetails with the Conservation Landscape Initiative — a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources program with which the NRHC is a partner.
Obtaining funding and interested partners has enabled the shuttle study to proceed, she said.
Last year, the NRHC was awarded a $72,000 tourism-bus study grant through the Federal Highway Administration's National Scenic Byways Program.
Holdorf said matching funds will be provided through the DCNR.
She declined to specify grant totals in advance of the proposal's bid submissions, due by Nov. 8.
Holdorf said the potential shuttle program's goal is to both assist tourists who want to visit sites, such as Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, and to reduce the carbon imprint in the area.
“Part of the study and the challenge to consultants would be looking at alternative fuels,” she said.
Among the routes to be included in the study are the Historic National Road, a National Scenic Byway All American Road, and the Laurel Highlands State Scenic Byway.
The latter includes Routes 711 and 381, Holdorf said.
Such road designations require specific “wow” qualities, Holdorf said, including historic or recreational features that attract motorists seeking a more scenic route.
Potential consultants will be asked to explore how to move travelers — such as bicyclists arriving in the Laurel Highlands via the Great Allegheny Passage — to tourist destinations or hotels.
“There is a limited amount of public transportation. Westmoreland and Fayette counties are not always able to connect visitors with more rural areas, in particular,” she said.
A potential second shuttle use would be to move employees to rural tourism locations.
“It may increase the opportunity for employment if (workers) can access those positions,” Holdorf said.
“We are at the beginning of the process. We want to explore every potential use,” she said. “We will look at (existing) models and see their successes and pitfalls.”
Julie Donovan, marketing director for the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, said the region is primarily a “drive-to destination.”
“We receive so many calls from visitors looking for transportation from Pittsburgh to the Laurel Highlands,” she said.
“Within the region, another popular call we get is visitors asking about a shuttle for the (Great Allegheny Passage). People only want to bike so far,” she said.
“I think what is important is the whole regional approach, everyone crossing county lines. We (visitors bureau) are all about getting someone from Fort Ligonier to Fort Necessity or Fallingwater,” Donovan said.
“(Shuttling) could help with (recruiting) employees and staff within the tourism (industry). There are jobs,” she said.
A feasibility study might answer one vital question, Donovan said: “Will someone who has their car park it and ride a shuttle within the region?”
Holdorf said a consultant likely will be chosen after Jan. 1 and the feasibility study will be launched in the spring.
A potential pilot project would require raising funds.
“We will take it one step at a time,” Holdorf said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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