On August 15, Scenic America President Mark Falzone joined Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Maryland state and local officials at Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park in Trappe, MD, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway’s recent designation as an All-American Road.
The 419-mile route traverses Maryland’s Eastern Shore, passing historic sites, charming towns, and popular destinations for outdoor recreation. Earlier this year, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) named it one of the newest All-American Roads—an honor reserved for the nation’s most distinguished and distinctive roadways.
In 1991, the FHWA created the America’s Byways program to recognize roads that demonstrate one of six intrinsic qualities: archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, or scenic. Roads exhibiting one of these qualities may apply for recognition as a national scenic byway, making it eligible for grant funding. To earn recognition as an All-American Road, a roadway must show two or more of these qualities. Following the latest designations from the FHWA, which were announced in February, there are now 150 national scenic byways and 37 All-American Roads.
“All-American Roads are the best of the best. They are destinations unto themselves, and they are powerful catalysts for economic development,” said Falzone. “Not only do they attract visitors who prefer to take the scenic drive, but they also bring new opportunities for rural, urban, and suburban communities along the way. Designated byways are eligible for grant funding to encourage tourism, job creation, and economic development. That’s particularly important in places like Maryland, where there are now 18 scenic byways in total—including three All-American Roads—and where tourism supports more than 150,000 jobs.”
Recognizing the important economic potential that the byways program could deliver—and noting that more byways designations would represent fewer billboards on America’s roadways—Scenic America led the effort in Congress in 2019 to revive the National Scenic Byways Program after a nine-year lapse in funding and a twelve-year lapse in new designations. Sen. Cardin co-sponsored the “Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act of 2019” with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Garret Graves (R-LA).
The Chesapeake Country All-American Road earned its new designation thanks to a collaboration between the Maryland Department of Commerce Office of Tourism Development, the Eastern Shore’s three heritage areas, and the counties of Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester. Representatives from several of these partner organizations, along with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, also took part in the ribbon-cutting event.
“It is tremendously exciting to watch communities celebrate new byways and All-American Road designations, but our work is not done,” added Falzone. “We are now focused on securing long-term funding for the program so that it can deliver on its full potential. We are grateful to Sen. Cardin and our other champions in the House and the Senate, including Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Sens. Alex Padilla (D-CA), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who sponsored byways funding amendments in the surface transportation reauthorization legislation.”
The House’s version of the surface transportation bill, the INVEST in America Act, includes $64 million in guaranteed funding for byways over four years and another $156 million over four years subject to appropriation. No such funding is included in the Senate’s version of the bill. Scenic America will continue to advocate for byways funding through this, and other, legislative channels.