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The National Scenic Byways Program and America's Byways®

The United States is traversed by roads of exceptional beauty and interest. Serpentine roads cling to dramatic land forms or meander gently among forest and field; razor-straight roads following the national grid of the American heartland reach purposefully across vast plains toward distant horizons. Some roads follow the ancient migration corridors of our Native Peoples, while others follow routes blazed by the automobile. They pass through our biggest cities and towns, and through clapboard villages and adobe pueblos. Whether urban, suburban, rural, or wild, these roads present alternative corridors and perspectives on America's land and people.

Many of these roads are now recognized as America's Byways®, a collection of nationally significant routes designated by the National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP) of the Federal Highway Administration. The National Scenic Byways Program was authorized by Congress in 1991, and established as an Interim Program in the following year. The Program's first fifteen years have seen the interest in scenic byways continually expand, with the development of State, Indian tribe, and Federal land management agency programs and the designation of 99 National Scenic Byways and 27 All-American Roads (including 155 individual State segments). The America's Byways® collection constitutes nearly 24,000 miles of roads in 44 States and 12 Tribal lands, with the collection's 126 routes ranging in length from less than 10 to more than 1,000 miles.

The program is highly popular among States and local byway groups, and has fostered innovative inter-community and inter-State agreements for resource management. The Program has also served as an international model for byway programs in Japan and Canada (three nationally designated US byways have corresponding extensions in Canada); and, through technical assistance from the American Planning Association (APA), NSBP guidance established the policy framework for designating China's first nationally recognized scenic road.

Since 1992, the Program has provided more than $300 million for 2,450 byway projects in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. To promote the America's Byways® collection, FHWA and numerous States actively market the byway collection. Of particular value for the byway traveler has been the "Come Closer" map booklets and byway summaries published by FHWA for nationwide distribution.

Among national byway travelers, the perceptions of the Program are favorable. In a recent consumer research survey sponsored by FHWA and the America's Byways Resource Center, 92 percent of byway travelers surveyed said they had a memorable experience and 87 percent said they believe the National Scenic Byways Program assists in the stewardship and preservation of historic, cultural, and scenic resources.[1] However, the survey also noted that overall awareness of the program remains low.

  1. "Marketing: America's Byways Consumer Research," FHWA, America's Byways Resource Center, Conducted by Longwoods International, 2006-2007. ^ back

Updated: 9/3/2013
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