Please Note: Because the National Scenic Byways Program is no longer funded, FHWA is no longer soliciting grant applications. Without funding for the Program, FHWA will not be moving forward with another round of designations of America's Byways® at this time.
Not all States or Indian tribes have byways designated under the National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP). Some States have byways programs but no nationally designated byways ( Rhode Island, for example); others have designated State byways without establishing a State program ( Massachusetts, for example). A number of States have nationally designated byways, but rely on Federal agencies to manage the route ( Virginia, for example). While several nationally designated byways cross Indian tribe lands, only one, Pyramid Lake Scenic Byway (Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation/Nevada), has been sponsored by a Tribal government. Additionally, for some long-distance, multi-State routes (Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway, for example), States that have not designated or nominated their portion create obvious gaps in resources that are viewed as singular entities or routes by the general public.
For a program with growing visibility, the absence of America's Byways® in some States can raise additional questions regarding Federal designation—especially as most States now showcase nationally designated routes. Why aren't there any America's Byways® in this State? Do we have significant resources that should be represented in the national collection?
This paper suggests possible reasons why some States are more actively engaged in the NSBP than others, and presents options that may help to increase the numbers of States and Indian tribes actively participating in the Program.
The following observations and options have been developed to suggest possible reasons for why some States do not have State byways programs or nationally designated byways.
The nation's transportation departments vary widely in their views and values regarding their central mission and obligation to their public. These differences of opinion are most pronounced when considering what may generally be viewed as enhancements programs. Context Sensitive Solutions, historic preservation, wetlands restoration, landscape architecture, and scenic byways represent programs that may not be universally viewed as relevant by all transportation agencies.
Guiding local community advocates through a scenic byway evaluation, application, and planning process requires specialized technical assistance. The NSBP's grassroots approach, by default, often necessitates outside expertise to guide and direct scenic byway planning, funds acquisition, and policy. Many DOTs have not traditionally served in this role and the staff assigned to support byway activities may not have sufficient expertise to provide the technical assistance required.
The broad distribution of the byway collection across the nation does not necessarily mean that 44 State DOTs are actively involved in the National Scenic Byways Program. All four of Virginia's nationally designated byways ( Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive, George Washington Memorial Parkway, and Colonial Parkway) are owned by the National Park Service—they are not designated as State numbered routes or maintained by the State DOT. Wyoming's single byway, the Beartooth Highway, is located entirely within the Shoshone National Forest. Similarly, Georgia's single byway, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway, is located entirely within the Chattahoochee National Forest. Of Tennessee's two nationally designated byways, one is in a national forest (Cherohala Skyway) and one is in a national park (Natchez Trace), and Oklahoma's single national byway ( Talimena Scenic Drive) is also located entirely in a national forest. For these five States, it is the USDA Forest Service and the National Park Service that serve as the "grassroots" community.
The following options may be considered for improving the quality of the collection in regards to States that do not have State byways programs or nationally designated byways.
Under the current program structure, States and Indian tribes are not required to participate in the NSBP. Without a statutory change in the Program, States cannot be made to participate. Consider partnerships with existing designated byways, touring, or heritage routes in States without byways programs.
This option would ensure 100% participation and would require a change to the legislation establishing the Program. (statutory issue)
Why do some States not have byways programs or nominate byways for national designation or rely on Federal partners for byway designations? Are the reasons consistent? Is there a general disregard for the NSBP or are there legal/policy/administrative concerns or limitations?
A survey could be undertaken to determine if States are denying or discouraging participation in the NSBP, or if there is little or limited interest in the Program. The Program, it should be remembered, is voluntary at the State and Indian tribe level, and at the grassroots level as well. Have States solicited likely byway communities only to find no interest at the local level?
There are likely community groups in non- or limited-participating States and Indian tribes that, if given the opportunity, would be interested in nominating a byway route for national designation. Current guidance and policy discourages such communities from pursuing NSBP status. The Program currently has examples of successful byway organizations in States that have shown minimal interest in the NSBP—these States providing little more than signatory authorization for the initial application and access to NSBP grants funding. These byways prove that engaged and interested byway communities can advance and sustain successful byway corridors. Consider allowing another State or Tribal agency/office (SHPO/THPO, tourism or environment office) to develop a MOA with the DOT to advance byway nominations from interested communities.