New Byways, New Funding: National Scenic Byway Program Update

Photo of Bear Mountain Bridge in New York
Bear Mountain Bridge as seen from Bear Mountain Peak along the Palisades Interstate Parkway / image: Palisades Interstate Parkway Commission

On February 16, 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced 34 new National Scenic Byways (NSB) and 15 new All-American Roads (AAR). The newly minted America’s Byways—hailing from 28 states across the continent—were designated as part of the 2019 Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act. The act temporarily re-opened the national program to state and national scenic byways seeking National or All-American Road designation.

Tennessee racked up the most designations, including two All-American Roads and three National Scenic Byways. New Jersey added four new National Byways, and Massachusetts, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, and Wisconsin all had three byways designated as either All-American Roads or National Scenic Byways.

Several multi-state byways were among those receiving new or upgraded federal designations. The longest, the Great River Road National Scenic Byway, follows the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The Lincoln Highway now has three National Scenic Byways along the corridor: Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois (designated a NSB in 2000). Historic Route 66 in Missouri became an AAR—the only portion of the famous route to achieve this prestigious designation. Other segments of Route 66 (Oklahoma, New Mexico, Illinois, and Arizona) are National Scenic Byways. New Mexico joined Colorado and Utah as a National Scenic Byway along the Trail of the Ancients. North Carolina and Tennessee received AAR designation for their Newfound Gap Road Byway, and the Palisades Scenic Byway became a NSB in New York and New Jersey. To see a complete list of America’s Byways, check out FHWA’s website.

FHWA’s February news followed Congress’ January announcement of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. The Act allocates $16 million for funding for the scenic byways program under 23 USC §162(b).

FHWA has not officially released details, but the new program is likely to require a twenty percent local matching funds with limited exceptions. Any highway designated as an All-American Road, National Scenic Byway, state scenic byway or Indian Tribe Scenic Byway can apply for the funding. Eligible projects are detailed in 23 USC §162 and include:

  • planning, design, and development of a byway program,
  • corridor management plan development and implementation,
  • safety improvements,
  • construction of bicycle and pedestrian facilities, rest areas, turnouts, overlooks or interpretive facilities
  • recreational improvements,
  • protection of scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, natural or archaeological resources
  • development of tourist information including interpretive information, and
  • byway marketing.

The funds will be made available for obligation until September 30, 2024. Stay tuned to FHWA’s website for additional information.

For more information on ASLA advocacy efforts related to transportation on other recent transportation-related announcements, please see:

This post was written by ASLA’s Transportation Professional Practice Network (PPN) leadership team.

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