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Specificity vs. Broader Applicability in Number of Projects

Program data were analyzed to understand the degree to which grant awards were applied to projects used on a statewide basis, a byway-wide basis, or in a location/program specific manner. In other words, were the funds for a project that involved an entire state (developing a State or Indian Tribe Scenic Byways Program, organizing and hosting a Statewide conference, or doing a research project, for example), used for a project that extended along an entire byway (directional signage or a marketing program, for example), or used in one specific location (to build a visitors center, develop interpretive signage, or improve a scenic pull-off)?

Data extending back to 1999 indicate that Statewide projects were annually awarded between 5% and 17% of the funds in this eight year-period. Byway-wide projects were awarded between 31% and 53% of the funds per year. Location-specific projects were awarded between 34% and 57% of the funds each year.

Table 8 and Figure 7 illustrate this information. Map 2 illustrates the geographical distribution of byway, State, and site-specific funded projects.

Table 8 : Program Awards to Statewide, Byway-wide or Location-Specific Projects by Year
Year State-wide % per year Byway-wide % per year Location-specific % per year Unknown % per year Total by Year
1999 $5,885,933 17% $12,195,944 35% $16,091,296 47% $212,000 1% $34,385,173
2000 $1,705,929 8% $9,592,737 47% $8,935,567 44% $165,000 1% $20,399,233
2001 $2,394,803 12% $6,349,984 31% $11,738,301 57%   0% $20,483,088
2002 $2,974,737 13% $8,696,745 38% $11,381,918 49% $30,000 0% $23,083,400
2003 $3,591,863 14% $11,411,954 43% $8,855,408 34% $2,468,525 9% $26,327,750
2004 $1,235,004 5% $9,913,234 42% $6,796,539 28% $5,909,925 25% $23,854,702
2005 $2,042,764 9% $8,858,100 39% $11,556,636 51%   0% $22,457,500
2006 $2,172,872 8% $13,421,429 53% $9,871,506 39% $98,000 0% $25,563,807
Totals $22,003,905   $80,440,127   $85,227,171   $8,883,450   $196,554,653

Note: The MDSC analysts were unable to determine the appropriate categories for several large grants during 2003 and 2004 and some smaller grants in other years. These are shown in the table as "unknown."

Figure 7 : Program Awards to Statewide, Byway-wide or Location-Specific Projects by Year

Stacked bar chart showing the data from Table 8 on NSBP grants for the years 1999 through 2006 in terms of how broad or location-specific the projects were. Each stacked bar represents a year, and each color segment within the bar represents a project location type: state-wide, byway-wide, or specific locations within byways.

Map 2 : Funded Projects by Location Types, 1999-2006

Relief map of the United States with dots indicating the general locations of grant-funded projects for the years 1999 through 2006 (corresponding to the breakdwon of grants amounts in Table 8 and Figure 7). Different color dots on the map indicate whether the projects are state-wide, byway-wide, or location-specific.

Directions for the Future

The most intriguing and relevant question emerging from this section is, do byways pursue fewer projects as they age, and if so, why? The data available for this report does not really reveal the answer to this question. Yet, there are potential implications from this observation that merit a closer look in the future.

As noted in the above text, if the number of projects declines, the reason may be a natural tendency to initially accomplish more projects followed by a period characterized by fewer, more complicated, multi-year, and higher-priced projects.

Does political will and enthusiasm fade with time? Perhaps raising grant matches becomes harder and harder as the years pass. Might it be that the benefits of byway designation are either not occurring or are not being recognized and communicated to match partners?

It may also be that most byways only have a limited number of critical projects. Perhaps most byways require an initial period of investment to become visitor-ready and fully-functioning. Then, perhaps byways move into a period of stability. This theory, if confirmed, would suggest that funding might be focused most heavily during the early years of a byway's life. In the years that follow, after meeting some threshold of stability, perhaps the standards for receiving grants should be raised.

A potential concern may be that organizational health declines along byways 3-5 years after designation. Part of this decline might be a decreased ability to identify local needs, prepare grants, manage grants, or manage projects. Such observations or concerns might direct the Program to help byways build more local capacity in anticipation of this potential organizational weakening.

Data on the successful application of funds to various types of byway projects, whether Statewide, byway corridor, or site/location specific, present a clear picture that grant criteria determining eligible projects worked well. State and Indian tribe recommended projects and FHWA decision-makers advanced projects meeting Program grant eligibility requirements, but were the funds well-spent? A major initiative in the future should be the establishment of project completion evaluations. Were projects successful? Were objectives clearly defined ahead of time? Did the project achieve its objectives? Did all intended beneficiaries see a positive impact? Did the project meet its budget? Why or why not? Most of these criteria are discussed in grant application materials, but the Program should consider whether, and how, it might assess the completion of these objectives when projects are finished.

Answers to these types of questions will present two areas for the Program to address. First, they will help the Program define expectations within grant rounds and grant applications. Second, they will help the Program understand what types of projects, and what types of organizations, present best practices for using Federal funds in the most productive ways.

Updated: 09/03/2013
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