Scenic America Celebrates $16 Million to Jump-Start the National Scenic Byways Program

Congress Provides New Funding for the First Time in Nearly 10 Years

Scenic America celebrates the inclusion of $16 million in funding for the National Scenic Byways Program in the omnibus spending package announced today by Congress—the first time in nine years that dedicated funds have been made available for this important program.  As part of the FY 2021 appropriations bill, the funds will deliver a welcome economic boost to the thousands of communities throughout the country located along these more than 1,000 transportation corridors.

Scenic America worked with several lawmakers in leading the charge to ensure the byways program’s inclusion in the appropriations bill.  

“We are grateful to Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-ME) for her leadership role in securing these funds and commend Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) for his leadership and support for the funding in the Senate FY 21 Transportation and Housing Appropriations process to help reopen funding for the National Scenic Byways Program,” said Scenic America President Mark Falzone. “We are also greatly appreciative to Chairman David Price (D-NC) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) for support of the program throughout the Conference.  This is an important program that preserves and protects our most significant roadways while bringing economic benefits to communities along the way.”

“Maine’s National Scenic Byways and the Acadia All-American Road provide Mainers and tourists alike with spectacular views and memorable experiences.  These roadways also spur much-needed economic activity throughout our state,” said Senator Collins.  “Last year, Senator [Ben] Cardin (D-MD) and I led bipartisan legislation that reopened the National Scenic Byways program to allow for new roads to be nominated and designated.  This funding included in the omnibus will help to protect precious corridors and provide tangible benefits for local communities.”

“This federal funding will help keep America beautiful, preserve special places and open roads, and continue a legacy of stewardship along National Scenic Byways,” said Senator Reed. “I hope the Revolutionary Heritage Byway in Bristol, Rhode Island, receives designation.”

Established in 1991, the National Scenic Byways Program recognizes roadways with notable scenic, historic, cultural, natural, recreational, and archaeological qualities. The funding included in this spending package is available to the 150 roadways that carry this national distinction, as well as to the more than 1,000 state and tribal scenic byways throughout the country.

Beyond their conservation and environmental benefits, scenic byways are a critical part of America’s travel and tourism industry, which generated $2.9 trillion in economic impact in 2019, according to the U.S. Travel Association.  For example, the Blue Ridge Parkway generated $1.4 billion in economic output and supported 16,300 jobs in North Carolina and Virginia in 2019, according to the National Park Service. During the same year, the Natchez Trace Scenic Parkway brought $13.1 million in economic output to Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi, supporting 161 jobs.   

In 2019, Scenic America took the lead in working with Congress to reinvigorate the National Scenic Byways Program, both to open new nominations and establish funding for the program.  Since 2009, no new byways had been designated by the Federal Highway Administration and funding was cut off in 2012. The Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act was signed into law on September 22, 2019, thanks to the leadership of bill sponsors Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Sen. Collins, Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), and Sen. Cardin.

“The bill’s lead sponsors recognized that the Byways Program could deliver tremendous benefits and acted quickly to move this legislation through Congress,” added Falzone. “We also want to thank co-sponsors Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH), Rep. Harley Rouda (D-CA), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sen. Christopher Coons (D-DE), Sen. Angus King (I-ME), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH).”

Scenic America will continue to advocate for the program’s long-term funding, as well as for it to be included in the Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill that Congress will take up next session.