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8. Partnership Evaluation

Collection Issue

The National Scenic Byways Program appears to have functioned well with its Federal-Tribal-State-local partnerships. Is there any reason to change that structure?

One of the notable successes of the National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP) is the nature of the cooperative working arrangements among the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal land management agencies, State departments of transportation, planning and tourism, and local byway groups. Partnerships among these and many other agencies, offices, community groups, nonprofit organizations, and advocacy groups have greatly enhanced the quality of the Program and expanded the reach of the byways concept well beyond the original Program partners that comprised the Scenic Byways Advisory Committee in 1992-93.

Given the scope of these issues papers to assess the overall performance of the Program as it pertains to maintaining and enhancing the quality of the America's Byways® collection, and the importance of partnerships to the Program since its establishment, it is legitimate to ask what partnerships have worked well, what partnership structures and relationships may need improvement, and whether this structure will serve the Program and its potential partners well into the future.


The partnership structure has worked well.

Since the National Scenic Byways Program was established, FHWA has been the Program's formal manager as defined by Congress in Section 162 of Title 23 of United States Code. FHWA has administered the nomination and designation of routes and the funding of eligible byways projects. Finally, FHWA has provided staffing and organizational capacity for national scenic byway conferences, regional workshops, and for the provision of information and marketing resources.

At the State level, State byway coordinators work as liaisons between the NSBP and local byway leaders to shape grant applications and designation packages. In addition, depending on priorities, State coordinators work on State conferences, marketing, and other State-specific projects.

Local byway leaders and groups are involved in the full-range of daily activities that occur on byways. In other words, almost every action and activity that happens along our national byways flows from and/or through the local byway groups. Federal and State officials, staff and/or departments do not generally initiate local actions. This hands-off approach, by Program design, establishes the purview (and responsibility) of local byway organizations.

Byway partnerships within State governments have advanced the quality of the America's Byways® collection.

Some State transportation departments have been effective by sharing responsibility for the Program through partnerships with other State agencies or within different DOT divisions. In Nevada and New Mexico, the State tourism offices have been valuable Program partners. In Maryland, the State Department of Planning and Department of Natural Resources have been effective partners. Kansas DOT initiated its program by hiring a consultant. States with large landscape architecture divisions like New York, Maryland, and California have demonstrated in-house capabilities with scenic analysis and landscape management—the professional skills of their landscape architects are well-suited for identifying, developing, and maintaining byway routes. Similarly, the States with active Context Sensitive Solutions programs generally have strong byway programs. Consider, for example, the number, geographic distribution, and intrinsic quality diversity of designated byways located in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, and Utah—the five pilot States that coordinated with FHWA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in the development of Context Sensitive Design programs.

The existing partnership structure has strengths and weaknesses.

With any locally-managed grassroots program the size of the NSBP, there are bound to be significant variances in coordination and communication among communities, governments, and agencies. In some States, local advocates and State programs take NSBP guidance as a threshold from which to build creative and innovative partnerships, while in other States partnerships are in name (or CMP) only, with communication on a limited basis and focused on intra-byway issues defined more by historic political divisions, local biases, and public lands management, than the overall byway corridor.

The partnership structure has demonstrated its effectiveness in a number of ways:

The partnership structure has also demonstrates some weaknesses as well:

Innovative partnerships have often been developed by grassroots activism and advocacy at the local, State, and International level.

The grassroots nature of the NSBP is clear with many of the multi-state routes that are now a part of the America's Byways® collection. In many of these cases, local grassroots communication with interested local byway groups in other States (and in Canada) have initiated and established partnerships, relationships, and friendships that would be difficult to coordinate at official governmental levels—thus effectively facilitating multi-State byway designations, and building new international partnerships . Consider the following examples:

Existing partnerships with Indian tribes have been successful.

While there have been limited byway partnerships involving Indian tribes and tribal governments to date, the partnerships that have been developed have benefited both Indian tribes and the America's Byways® collection. Active interest and staff participation at the Bureau of Indian Affairs with the Program has benefited the partnerships as well.

Successful examples of byway partnerships with Indian tribes include:


Maintain partnership structures as they are.

Don't fix it if it's not broken. Innovative and successful partnerships have been a hallmark of the NSBP. There have been few identified problems within the partnership structure as it exists, and many exemplary models to be shared and emulated. In many ways, the National Scenic Byways Program represents a model that other Federal, Tribal, State, and local partnerships should model.

Strengthen marketing funding for the America's Byways® collection.

Marketing remains an important component of visitor awareness for the America's Byways® collection. Through the use of the COREs concept, marketing relationships by byway themes and stories could be significantly enhanced and coordinated, and new partnerships could be developed by shared themes. This aspect of the Program would be stronger with a larger marketing budget and staff.

Establish clearer program direction and guidance for multi-State byways and international efforts.

Multi-State byway and international efforts have expanded the influence of the NSBP, and reinforced the tenet that travelers focused on intrinsic qualities are unaware of political boundaries.

Related Issues

Updated: 9/3/2013
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