New Route 209 Commercial Vehicle Exemption Signed Into Law
New legislation allowing limited use of US Route 209 through Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area by some commercial vehicles was signed into law by the President on Monday. “We are very grateful for the hard work and compromising spirit of all who were involved in drafting this important piece of legislation and getting it passed, especially Congressmen Tom Marino and Matt Cartwright, Senator Pat Toomey, former park superintendent John Donahue, and local elected officials from affected communities,” said Chief Ranger Eric Lisnik who will manage the commercial vehicle program for the park. “Getting the large tractor trailers and non-local commercial vehicles off of Route 209 while allowing use by smaller trucks and local businesses protects National Park Service resources and infrastructure, provides a better and safer experience for visitors and commuters, and allows local businesses and communities to thrive.” The previous law allowing some commercial vehicles to use Route 209 expired on September 30, 2015.
Until the new law expires on September 30, 2021, operators of local commercial vehicles with 4 or fewer axles may obtain a permit to use US Route 209 if the vehicle is owned and operated by a business that is physically located in the park or in one or more of nine adjacent municipalities, or if the operator is serving a business or person located in the park or in one or more of the adjacent municipalities. Adjacent municipalities include: Delaware Township, Dingman Township, Lehman Township, Matamoras Borough, Milford Township, Milford Borough, Middle Smithfield Township, Smithfield Township, and Westfall Township. All other commercial vehicles are prohibited on Route 209 through the park.
The National Park Service is currently in the process of interpreting the new law and working to establish associated regulations and a permit system for eligible commercial vehicles. School buses transporting students for school or school-related activities and fire, ambulance, and other public safety and emergency vehicles do not need a permit to use the road. Information on how, when, and where permits may be purchased will be released once it is available. “We anticipate having permits available for purchase in April with full implementation and enforcement of the new law beginning in July,” said Lisnik. The fee to obtain a 2018 permit will likely be set at $100 per vehicle for the remainder of the year; subsequent annual permit fees will be set at $200 per vehicle per calendar year.
A commercial vehicle is defined as any vehicle used to transport property or provide services to an individual or business for a fee or profit or that is used in connection with any business regardless of how the vehicle is registered. A vehicle registered to an individual is considered a commercial vehicle if it is used to conduct business. The use of government roads within national park areas by commercial vehicles, when such use is in no way connected with the operation of the park area, is prohibited under federal regulations. This law, and other the commercial vehicle laws that were in place in the past, provides an exception to that general regulation under certain conditions and parameters, as defined by legislation. (See 36 CFR, Section 5.6: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2011-title36-vol1/pdf/CFR-2011-title36-vol1-sec5-6.pdf.)
The full text of the new legislation can be viewed at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/560/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22209%22%5D%7D&r=2.
Contact the Chief Ranger’s Office at (570) 426-2414 with questions about commercial vehicle permit eligibility. For more information on Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and site openings and closures, call park headquarters at (570) 426-2452, Monday through Friday from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm; visit our website at www.nps.gov/dewa; or follow us on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/DelWaterGapNPS.