Action Alert: December 2003

December 2003


The Conference Report on H.R.2673, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2004, has now been released, providing details on appropriations for the Department of Transportation and the National Scenic Byways Program. HR 2673 is expected to be adopted without amendments either early next week or in January 2004.

Despite our collective efforts, nearly half of the total byways program money ($27.5 million) has been earmarked for specific state programs and projects ($13,250,000). The House of Representatives had originally earmarked all of the byways money, while the Senate had no earmarks. The conferees compromised, reducing the House earmarks by half. More importantly, this means is there has been earmarking of byways funds for three straight years and there is actually less money available for grants this year than in any of the first three years under TEA 21. That is definitely NOT the right direction for this program. Attached is a list of the earmarked projects included in H.R.2673.

So, where do we go from here?

Reauthorization of the nation's surface transportation programs is now actively underway. This important legislation will direct highway spending for the next 6 years, and the byways community can and must help shape provisions affecting the National Scenic Byways Program. The Administration, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committees have each developed drafts of this legislation, and each proposes different levels of funding for scenic byways. DOT's SAFETEA proposal asks for $31.5M per year for a total of $189M. The Senate's draft (S. 1072) calls for $34M increasing to $39M and a total of $220M over six years. The House version (HR 3550) proposes $35M increasing to $110M for an impressive total of $435M for six years (see accompanying chart).

We fully support this trend toward higher funding. But the Scenic Byways Coalition wants to accomplish more than just increased funding. We are working on strategies that would protect byways grant money against earmarking, develop a system for identifying national priority projects and ensure the continuation of America's Byways Resources Center.

How you can help:

The byways community must have both national advocates and an active grassroots constituency to succeed. If your byway is important to you, please (1) take action yourself; and (2) pass this message along to others in your byway organization. We suggest that you write to your local Congressman and the Senators that represent your state, as well as the Congressional leadership on this issue. To assist you in your efforts, please click below for:

Names and fax numbers for key contacts

A sample letter

Key points to address in your letters and communications on re-authorization

Please fax or e-mail your letters to Congress, and fax or e-mail a copy to us - do not mail your letters.

We look forward to assisting your efforts in any way we can, and hope you will take the time to make your voice heard. Please email if you have any questions or comments.