by Peter Dunleavy, RLA, and Janet Kennedy
On February 6, the House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 831 – Reviving America’s Scenic Byway Act of 2019. The act proposed to grant the Secretary of Transportation 90 days to request nominations for roads to be designated under the National Scenic Byway Program (23 USC §162) and to make designation determinations within one year after making the request for nominations.
In honor of the House of Representatives vote to pass H.R. 831, we are asking you to post a comment below telling us about your favorite Scenic Byway and/or favorite Scenic Byway Logo. Be sure to include links to photos and memorable sites along the route if you can.
The federal National Scenic Byway Program was enacted in 1991 under ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act). Several states followed suit by passing laws to create state scenic byway programs. Currently 48 states and the District of Columbia have legislated scenic byway programs. Roads designated as scenic byways must have at least one of six intrinsic qualities: scenic, historical, archaeological, natural, cultural, or recreational. These intrinsic qualities describe features specific and unique to the roadway. A scenic byway corridor is managed to protect the byway’s intrinsic quality and to encourage economic development through tourism and recreation.
The designation process is initiated by a grassroots effort of local communities and not-for-profit organizations. New York State’s scenic byway planning guidebook, Building Your Byway from the Ground Up, identifies four keys to a successful scenic byway designation campaign, including a champion, early and meaningful public participation, volunteer involvement, and strong durable partnerships.
23 USC §162 (b) provided grants and technical assistance to states and Indian Tribes interested in implementing projects on highways with national, state, or tribal designation. Funds were granted to plan, design, and develop state or Indian tribe scenic byway programs. Scenic Byway planning included the drafting of mandatory Corridor Management Plans (CMPs). Design projects were used to make safety improvements, construct pedestrian and bicycle facilities, enhance recreational opportunities, protect the byway’s intrinsic qualities, and develop and provide tourist information and marketing programs.
Direct funding for the National Scenic Byway Program was eliminated in MAP-21 (2012)—replaced by the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). TAP funding was subsequently replaced (in the FAST Act) with a set-aside of Surface Transportation Block Grants (STBG) program funding for Transportation Alternatives (TA). This meant that scenic byway organizations had to compete with a larger pool of applicants for funds.
A. Construction, planning and design of on-road and off-road trail facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized forms of transportation including sidewalks, bicycle infrastructure, pedestrian and bicycle signals, traffic calming techniques, lighting and other safety-related infrastructure and transportation projects to achieve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
D. Construction of turnouts, overlooks, and view areas,
E. Community improvement activities, which include but are not limited to:
i. Inventory, control or removal of outdoor advertising;
ii. Historic preservation and rehabilitation of historic transportation facilities.
iii. Vegetation management practices in transportation rights-of-way to improve roadway safety, prevent against invasive species and provide erosion control and
iv. Archaeological activities relating to impacts from implementation of a transportation project eligible under title 23.
One big difference between the two grant programs is that not-for-profit groups and community organizations responsible for maintaining the scenic byways cannot directly apply for TA funds—they must partner with a local government. Transitioning to the new program has proven difficult for many scenic byway organizations; the number of projects funded specifically for scenic byways (using Transportation Alternatives grants) has dropped significantly since 2012.
Again, in honor of the February 6 House of Representatives vote to pass H.R. 831, we are asking you to post a comment below telling us about your favorite Scenic Byway and/or favorite Scenic Byway Logo. Be sure to include links to photos and memorable sites along the route if you can.
Peter Dunleavy, RLA, is an Associate Landscape Architect at the New York State Department of Transportation. Janet Kennedy is Executive Director of Lakes to Locks Passage.