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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Contact: Brian Turmail, (202) 366-4570
FHWA 1-04

Secretary Mineta Urges Congress to Protect America's Byways By Passing a Six-Year Surface Transportation Bill

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta today urged Congress to protect important economic development programs like the one to promote and develop scenic highways by passing a responsible six-year surface transportation bill sooner rather than later.

"Scenic byways bring tourists to rural America and much-needed dollars to small communities," said Secretary Mineta. "This small but critical program is heading for a dead end if Congress fails to pass a fiscally responsible surface transportation bill as soon as possible."

Without a six-year surface transportation bill, the U.S. Department of Transportation would be unable to name additional roads to the program and could issue less than half as much money for Byways grants as last year, the Secretary cautioned. This means that of the $80 million total in grants requests sent from mostly rural communities, the Department will be able to award only 14 percent of their requests.

Since 1992, the National Scenic Byways Program has provided $206 million for 1,495 projects in 48 states, including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Currently, 96 roads in 39 states have been named by the U.S. Department of Transportation as an American Byway. Studies suggest that byway designations increase the number of visitors to rural communities by up to 20 percent, resulting in billions more dollars and tens-of-thousand of jobs nationwide. Those same studies have found that the typical byway visitor spends between $100 and $200 per trip.

The America's Byways program is funded as part of the six-year surface transportation authorization bill. The Bush Administration's $256 surface transportation reauthorization proposal, called the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003 (SAFETEA), would be the largest highway, transit and safety investment in U.S. history. SAFETEA would increase funding for the scenic byways program by 28 percent from $148 million under the last six-year surface transportation bill to $189 million.

The Secretary made his comments during the launch of a new Mobil Travel Guide series featuring America's Byways. Mobil Travel Guide today released the first of its America's Byways Series, titled All-American Roads. The new guides will feature travel information for roads designated as an American Byway.

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