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The National Scenic Byways Program was authorized by The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA).[1] Today, the America's Byways ® collection consists of 126 routes constituting more than 29,200 miles of roads in 44 states (Map 1).

Map 1 : The America's Byways Collection in 2008

Designated byways depicted on a map of the continental United States showing state boundaries, an inset map of Alaska and the Western states, and an inset map of Hawaii.

The National Scenic Byways Program provides annual grants to fund scenic byways program development, planning, and the implementation of projects that support the Program's goals of protecting and promoting routes of regional and national significance. In fifteen grant cycles (1992-2006) the Program has funded 2,174 grants totaling nearly $278 million. Of these grants, 873 were for projects on nationally-designated routes in the America's Byways ® collection, 1,160 were for projects on State and Indian tribe designated scenic byways, and the remaining 141 were for statewide programs and activities.

This report reviews the National Scenic Byways Program's accomplishments from a funding perspective. It provides information on the grant program's objectives, dollars authorized and allocated, program funding administration, matching funds and services provided by local byways, the numbers and types of projects funded, and the distribution of these efforts across the country.

In addition, this report explores funding issues that should be considered in the future. More specifically, the report looks at how these funds have been used, and whether there are expenditure patterns that shed light on how Program policies should be either maintained or altered.

Data Sources

The data and analyses in this report are based on information collected by the National Scenic Byways Online (NSBO) staff of the Multimedia Data Services Corporation (MDSC). NSBO develops and maintains America's Byways for travelers, for byway professionals, and other databases and media. MDSC provides staffing for NSBO under contract with the Federal Highway Administration. For this project, in addition to providing information from existing databases, MDSC personnel reviewed nomination documentation for all 155 state segments of the 126 National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads, and conducted additional GIS data research and analysis.

MDSC conducted detailed reviews of funded grant applications for the period from 1999 through 2006 (the 2007 grants were awarded after this analysis was completed). This eight-year period thus provides the most comprehensive quantitative information available for analysis and has been used to define the Program observations made in this report. Unless specifically noted otherwise, all numbers used in this report are from this 1999-2006 period.

  1. The statutory authorization for the National Scenic Byways Program is codified at Title 23, Section 162 of the United States Code. This statute was most recently amended in 2005 by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act - A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). ^ back
Updated: 9/3/2013
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