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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Office of the Secretary, Office of Public Affairs, Washington, DC 20590

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 25, 2003
Contact: Bill Outlaw
Telephone: 202-366-0660
FHWA 13-03

FHWA Administrator Peters Delivers Check for Minnesota Scenic Byways, Recognizes State DOT's Environmental Programs

ST. PAUL, MN - Federal Highway Administrator Mary E. Peters, on behalf of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta, today delivered a check for $696,456 for Minnesota's scenic byways program and recognized the state's strong commitment to protecting and preserving the environment.

"President Bush and Secretary Mineta are committed to good stewardship of America's resources, and this funding will help protect and enhance roads representing our heritage," Peters said. "The funding for these scenic byways projects will help protect and enhance roads that connect us to our country's beauty, history and culture."

Peters made the check presentation at a news conference with U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, Lt. Gov. and Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau, state scenic byways commissioners and Scenic Byways project coordinators from across Minnesota. Peters also recognized the Minnesota DOT (MnDOT) as one of 12 recipients, nationwide, of FHWA's Environmental Excellence Award for environmental research. Since the awards program started in 1995, these biennial awards have recognized partners, projects and processes that use FHWA funding sources to go beyond environmental compliance and achieve environmental excellence.

The Minnesota scenic byway projects are among 206 projects in 42 states to share $24 million in Federal Highway Administration scenic byways grants. These funds help recognize, preserve and enhance America's scenic roads and highways throughout the United States.

MnDOT conducted research to find out what Minnesotans really notice about the aesthetic benefits built into their highway corridors. It created a tool called the Aesthetic Initiative Measurement System to measure Minnesotans' perceptions of roadsides. The state has won eight Environmental Excellence Awards since the program started in 1995.

"Minnesota's scenic byways connect literally millions of tourists and travelers to our state's beauty, history and culture," Senator Coleman said. "With the recent celebration of Earth Day, I can't think of a better time to recommit to our stewardship of these byways and the jobs and tourism that depend on them statewide."

"The scenic byways program was a grassroots initiative to protect the natural beauty and historic heritage of America's roads and highways. The program was created through the hard work, cooperation and support of local communities, states and the federal government, as well as conservation, recreation, transportation and tourism interests," said Congressman James L. Oberstar, ranking member on U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "When Congress drafted the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in 1991, I was able to insert language funding the first national scenic byways program. I am truly proud of the advancements made by the State of Minnesota since 1991 to improve its environmental research, and thereby enhance the scenic byways program."

In addition to recognizing Minnesota's scenic byway program and Environmental Excellence Award, the state DOT also won FHWA's Greener Roadsides 2002 Photo Opportunity in the Public Awareness category.

Three grants totaling $239,696 will help enhance the knowledge and appreciation of the national, historic, cultural and scenic assets of the 575-mile Great River Road through interpretive signs in each of the 21 counties the byway traverses. The completion of these projects will coincide with the promotional opportunities presented by the Grand Excursion 2004 festivities being planned along the Mississippi River by the St. Paul Riverfront Corporation, as the communities of the Upper Mississippi River celebrate the 150th anniversary re-enactment of the famous Millard Fillmore flotilla excursion of 1854.

A grant of $80,000 will fund a rest area in Toimi along the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway. This project will provide rest rooms, drinking water and a picnic area for the byway traveler. Toimi is located between Silver Bay and Hoyt Lakes, in the middle of a 50-mile stretch of highway, where no amenities are now available.

A fifth grant of $72,000 will fund repairs to the Reads Landing Overlook, located along TH 61 in Pepin Township. The overlook, built in 1939 by the Minnesota Department of Highways in cooperation with the National Youth Administration, is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The repairs will stabilize the overlook wall so visitors can experience and appreciate an increasingly rare legacy of the New Deal public relief programs, see spectacular views of the Mississippi River and its natural and scenic beauty, learn about the cultural and natural history of the area, and continue to have a safety pull-off at this location along the Great River Road National Scenic Byway.

Additional grants totaling $224,760 will help to promote tourism, expand educational outreach programs and assist in the preservation of the historical, cultural and natural assets. These grants including funding for the following scenic byways:

  • Lake Country Scenic Byway, which follows Highway 34 from Lake Leech through Park Rapids to Detroit Lakes;
  • North Shore Scenic Drive, which follows Highway 61 from Two Harbors to Grand Portage along Lake Superior;
  • Edge of the Wilderness Scenic Byway, which follows Highway 38 from Grand Rapids to Effie;
  • Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway, from Browns Valley through Mankato to Belle Plaine;
  • Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, America's first urban scenic byway;
  • Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway through Duluth; and
  • Historic Bluff Country Scenic Byway, which follows Highway 16 between Dexter and La Crescent.

A final grant of $80,000 will promote the cultural and heritage resources and activities of Minnesota's scenic byways through web site enhancements and the development and placement of advertising.

Grants from national scenic byways discretionary funds enable states to undertake eligible projects along highways designated as All-American Roads, National Scenic Byways and state-designated byways. Eligible under this program are planning projects to inventory, preserve and enhance the qualities of a byway; to improve safety; to construct bike and pedestrian facilities; to develop visitor information such as brochures and interpretive facilities and scenic overlooks; and to protect resources by such means as scenic easements and byway marketing.

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