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2. Development of the Program

Initial Legislation

The National Scenic Byways Study, completed in 1991, recommended the establishment of a national scenic byways program that would include recommended techniques for maintaining and enhancing the scenic, recreational, and historic qualities associated with each byway. Later that year, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) incorporated many of the study's recommendations, and called for the establishment of a National Scenic Byways Program.

Advisory Committee

ISTEA created an advisory committee to assist in establishing the National Scenic Byways Program. The advisory committee included representatives of the Federal Highway Administration, the USDA Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Travel and Tourism Administration of the Department of Commerce, and individuals representing the interests of the recreational users of scenic byways, conservationists, the tourism industry, historic preservationists, highway users, State and local highway and transportation officials, the motoring public, scenic preservationists, the outdoor advertising industry, and the planning professions. The advisory committee was charged with developing minimum criteria for designating highways to be included in a national scenic byways system. The advisory committee met four times and produced a report that made recommendations on all of the facets of a National Scenic Byways Program.

Interim Policy

In May 1995, FHWA issued the Interim Policy for the National Scenic Byways Program (see Appendix C.) The Interim Policy defined a number of terms in the statute and established procedures for nomination and designation of National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads. This document has guided the Program since its inception and, with the current legislation, continues to be the principle guiding policy of FHWA.

Current Legislation

The National Scenic Byways Program was reauthorized and formalized under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) in 1998, and amended by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act - A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), in 2005.

TEA-21 established the general current framework of the National Scenic Byways Program into law and replaced the interim Program established in ISTEA. SAFETEA-LU amended the National Scenic Byways Program to allow for the nomination of America's Byways® by Indian tribes, and to make Indian tribes, projects on Indian tribe scenic byways, and Indian tribe scenic byway programs eligible for funding.

The statute governing the Program is Title 23, Section 162 of the United States Code (see Appendix B).

Figure 1: Program Timeline
Year Event
1988 National Conference on Scenic Byways


National Scenic Byways Study
ISTEA - $74.3 million authorized
1993 Scenic Byways Advisory Committee Report
1995 FHWA Interim Policy for National Scenic Byways Program
1996 First national designations (14 NSBs, 6 AARs)
1998 TEA-21 - $148 million authorized
Second round of national designations (30 NSBs, 3 AARs)
2000 Third round of national designations (29 NSBs, 1 AAR)
2002 Fourth round of national designations (23 NSBs, 14 AARs)
2005 SAFETEA-LU - $175 million authorized
Fifth round of national designations (37 NSBs, 8 AARs)
Updated: 9/3/2013
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