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Utah projects won a fifth of the $27 million in grants that the federal government awarded nationwide Wednesday to improve alternative transportation in national parks, forests and wildlife refuges.

Six projects in Utah will split $5.45 million in "Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks" grants for work ranging from buying new Utah Transit Authority buses for Big and Little Cottonwood canyons to developing new transportation plans for Arches and Bryce Canyon national parks.

"While making federal lands more accessible, it will also conserve energy and natural resources," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who had visited Utah in October.

Among the grants is $1.12 million for Utah Transit Authority to replace ski buses and repair the Cottonwood Canyons park-and-ride lot, designed to serve the Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

Grand County received $2.9 million to extend the "Colorado Riverway" multi-use pathway along S.R. 128 adjacent to the Colorado River and Arches National Park. It is designed to enhance safety for bicyclists and other non-motorized users along the scenic route.

Arches National Park received $180,000 for an alternative transportation feasibility study. Similarly, Bryce Canyon National Park received $400,000 to develop "an integrated, multi-modal park transportation plan."

Zion National Park received two grants. One, for $600,000, is to "study the effects of the current park transportation system [which uses shuttle buses to transport visitors to most sites in Zion Canyon] on park resources and the experience of park visitors."

It received another $250,000 grant to improve visitor information to help visitors using the Zion Canyon shuttle system to find their way.

"With these projects, we are opening the way for many more people to discover the beauty, history and culture of America," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.