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Purpose of the Program

The National Scenic Byways Program was established to recognize roads across the United States with outstanding "intrinsic qualities," defined as "features that are considered representative, unique, irreplaceable, or distinctly characteristic of an area." The Program has dual objectives of promotion and protection that have resulted in innovative partnerships for resource management. Through resource-based tourism, the Program envisions enhanced economic opportunities for the communities and regions through which a byway travels.

In addition to the direction provided the National Scenic Byways Program with its initial authorization by the U.S. Congress in 1991 (and subsequent updates -see Section 2), the Secretary of Transportation was directed to establish a National Scenic Byways Advisory Committee to seek outside comment and advice from other Federal agencies and national organizations with demonstrated leadership in travel, tourism, and the six intrinsic qualities. The resulting Scenic Byways Advisory Committee Report[1] outlined broad recommendations for the Program, grassroots participation, and byway quality.

The Scenic Byways Advisory Committee Report noted:

That the program might increase national and international tourism—and create new jobs and economic development—while also serving to preserve the irreplaceable intrinsic qualities of the selected scenic byways corridors, makes it an attractive program. A joining together of objectives to achieve a concurrence of benefits aptly describes the proposed program. Protecting intrinsic qualities may actually increase tourism and lead to economic development.

(Scenic Byways Advisory Committee Report, p.vii, emphasis added)

By Program design, the six identified intrinsic qualities (scenic, historic, recreational, archaeological, natural, and cultural) are identified and managed through a corridor management plan (CMP). Importantly, these plans are intended to be initiated and stewarded by local grassroots community involvement—a hallmark of the Program. As the Advisory Committee noted:

Those who seek the Federal designation of those National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads must give something in return: commitments to preserve and protect the assets in the affected corridors.

(Scenic Byways Advisory Committee Report, p vii)

Since its outset, FHWA has consciously managed the National Scenic Byways Program as a grassroots program in which local sponsors are encouraged to initiate a byway's nomination. As a result, the Program has been distinguished by its core commitment to partnerships. Although FHWA has actively reached out to promote the Program, decisions about whether to establish a State or Indian tribe program—and if so, what routes to include—have been left in the hands of State agencies, Indian tribes, and local advocates. This "bottom up" approach, with the Federal, State, and Tribal governments providing advisory, financial, marketing, and technical assistance, encourages a great diversity of byway experiences and reinforces the regional uniqueness of America.

This approach to identifying and designating scenic byways has produced a diverse and interesting collection of byway routes, engaged local communities responsible for the stewardship of their identified intrinsic qualities, and increased economic opportunities for the byway communities. For the byway traveler, the program defines a nationally recognized collection of routes providing access to and through a broad spectrum of the landscapes and communities of the United States.

The NSBP recognizes these byway routes as National Scenic Byways (NSB) and All-American Roads (AAR). A National Scenic Byway must possess at least one of the six intrinsic qualities and demonstrate "regional significance." An All-American Road must possess at least two of the six intrinsic qualities and be considered "a destination unto itself." Collectively, these byways are recognized and marketed as America's Byways®.

  1. Scenic Byways Advisory Committee Report, (US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Publication No. FHWA-PD-93-053,1994) ^ back

Updated: 9/3/2013
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