America's Byways® represent a collection of roads that have been designated due to the unique intrinsic qualities they possess. The application process and corridor management plan (CMP) requirements were designed to ensure that only worthy byways showcasing desired intrinsic qualities and backed by a committed advocacy organization would qualify for designation under the National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP).
The integrity of individual byways is essential to maintain public expectations of a quality visitor experience. Byways that have not maintained their intrinsic qualities, and byways that, through no fault of their own, have lost significant intrinsic qualities, should be considered for de-designation. As a collection, poorly-managed or underperforming byways may damage the reputation of the system and could impact visitation to other byways.
America's Byways® could be likened to a franchise system. To become a part of the franchise, certain promises are made for quality and expectation. In return, the franchise, in this case the National Scenic Byways Program, provides standards, technical assistance, and marketing. Under a franchise system, units that do not meet the standards of the parent corporation are removed.
The National Scenic Byways Program is not a fast-food chain. There is no management structure standard, nor should there be for a grassroots program, to which each byway is held accountable. Nevertheless, like a franchise, participation is voluntary, not mandatory. While every effort should be made to assist failing, but committed, byways through technical assistance and grants, byway groups that show little commitment to the NSBP may be removed from the system under the Interim Policy.
Designation as one of America's Byways® is an honor and privilege—communities, States and Indian tribes that have voluntarily sought this recognition should be held accountable to basic quality standards as both their own route and as a representative of the larger collection.
The Federal Register outlining the FHWA Scenic Byways Interim Policy, May 18, 1995, states:
The Secretary of Transportation may de-designate any roads or highways designated as National Scenic Byways or All-American Roads if they no longer possess the intrinsic qualities nor meet the criteria which supported their designation.
A road or highway will be considered for de-designation when it is determined that the local and/or State commitments described in a corridor management plan have not been met sufficiently to retain an adequate level of intrinsic quality to merit designation.
When a byway has been designated for more than one intrinsic quality, the diminishment of any one of the qualities could result in de-designation of the byway as a National Scenic Byway or All-American Road.
It shall be the State's responsibility to assure that the intrinsic qualities of the National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads are being properly maintained in accordance with the corridor management plan.
When it is determined that the intrinsic qualities of a National Scenic Byway or All-American Road have not been maintained sufficiently to retain its designation, the State and/or Federal agency will be notified of such finding and allowed 90 days for corrective actions before the Secretary may begin formal de-designation.
While a process for de-designation exists, in practical (and political terms) it is unlikely to be utilized. So long as byways funds are available, local byway communities and their Congressional delegations are unlikely to accept de-designation without a fight in most cases.
Require State and Indian tribe byway coordinators to provide an annual (or periodic) report assessing byways exceeding program expectations, meeting program expectation, and failing program expectations. Determine a time period for which consecutive failing marks results in a warning/probation, and/or de-designation.
The NSBP should weigh the loss of intrinsic qualities that may warrant de-designation against the byway's management structure. Has the loss been due to negligence or indifference, or due to overwhelming odds beyond the ability of the byway managing organization to control? Consider the byway's timely and quality reporting of progress based on required Program updates and reports. Additionally consider the impact to the collection due to de-designation and consult with the State or Indian Tribe byway coordinator to determine if another agency or organization may be poised to take over, or assist with the management responsibility for the byway.
Assemble a panel of experts to develop criteria for de-designation.