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Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Scenic Byway grant presentation
Friday, April 25, 2003, St. Paul, Minnesota

We are here to celebrate the outstanding scenic roads of America, and to recognize the strong commitment that Minnesota DOT has made to environmental excellence. During this week in which we mark Earth Day, it is important to emphasize that President Bush, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, and all of U.S. DOT remain committed to good stewardship of America's resources. The grants we are announcing will help protect and enhance roads representing the best of our nation's heritage and natural beauty.

I want to thank Senator Coleman, the former Mayor of St. Paul; Lt. Gov. Molnau; and St. Paul Congresswoman Betty McCollum, represented today by Emily Lawrence, Congressman Gil Gutknecht, represented by Dick Larson, and Congressman John Kline, represented by Larry Johnson, for their continued support of Minnesota's scenic byways.

And thanks to Wayne Sames, John Edman, Jim Pederson and Dick Elasky, the Representatives who serve on the Scenic Byways commission, and to the scenic byway project coordinators who join us today from across Minnesota. I hope that you realize how many Minnesotans, and how many Americans, benefit from your hard work and dedication to these beautiful and historic roads.

So I am very pleased to be here to provide grant funding that will maintain and improve nine impressive scenic byways that reach every corner of the state - roads such as:

  • the North Shore Scenic Drive, which takes in the unspoiled scenery of eight state parks and a national forest, as it follows the north shore of Lake Superior from Duluth to Grand Portage,

  • the Historic Bluff Country Scenic Byway, the state's southernmost trail that in many ways connects modern Minnesota to its past, and,

  • the Great River Road, which passes just outside this window.

But this event also spotlights the 206 projects in 42 states that will share $24 million in Federal Highway scenic byway grants. Like those in other states that we seek to enhance through this program, Minnesota's byways connect us to our country's beauty, history and culture. Grants stress the importance of local decision-making. This is Washington saying, "We're here to help, not tell you what to do." Grants also can fuel economic growth so each community can be the architect of their own future.

America's Byways are a big part of who we are -- they represent our freedom to follow the open road . . . our freedom to discover. They help us reconnect to what is real. They help us get in touch with the land and its people.

The passage of ISTEA 12 years ago represented a fundamental shift in the way the transportation community and Federal Highway in particular, think about its mission. Before ISTEA, Federal Highway focused like a laser on completing the Interstate system. Almost no one thought an initiative such as Scenic Byways would be an ongoing program.

And here we are.

I'm proud to say Scenic Byways is an important part of what we do today . . . a prime example of how the transportation community and Federal Highways have evolved and matured in the years since ISTEA and its successor act, TEA-21. Today, more than ever, people are seeking what is real and important -- a sense of security, spending time with family, reconnecting.

I also want to note that Minnesota DOT has been recognized with other notable awards for environmental leadership. A state project was one of only twelve national winners of an FHWA "Environmental Excellence Award" just this week. That award was for developing an innovative method to rank the attractiveness of views along highway corridors. It is significant to note that the state of Minnesota has won eight Environmental Excellent awards since the program started in 1995!

There's been a misconception that you're either a good environmental steward or you build transportation projects. The Minnesota DOT and the scenic byway program demonstrate how we can make needed transportation improvements while preserving and enhancing our scenic vistas and important landscapes.

It is my pleasure, on behalf of President Bush, Secretary Mineta, and the entire Department of Transportation, to deliver this check for $696,456 to Lt. Gov. Molnau. Additionally, I'd like to present the Lt. Gov. with the 2003 Federal Highway Administration Environmental Excellence Award for excellence in environmental research.

Congratulations to all of you and to your state for recognizing, preserving, and sharing the jewels of our transportation system.

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