Summer 2003: Sample Byways Earmarking Letter to Congress

Sample Scenic Byways Earmarking Letters to Congress


Summer and Fall 2003

Below are three letters written by various organizations in the Summer of 2003 to urge the House of Representatives not Earmark funds for the Scenic Byways.

Sample Letter 1

September 24, 2003

Dear Representative Michaud,

On behalf of the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway Council and the regional community, I am requesting your support as we work to protect the underpinnings of the National Scenic Byways Program. At the State of Maine’s level, the Byways program is incredibly important to our tourism-based economy. In these uncertain economic times, it is critical that we protect the foundation of our State’s economy by supporting the infrastructure that it literally rests upon as well as the principle means of tourism transportation.

Upwards of 80% of the funding provided to improve and enhance our state’s Byways comes from the National Scenic Byways Program in the form of merit-based grants.. Without these funds, neither the incredible potential of our Byways nor our tourism-based economic goals can be met.

The National Scenic Byways Program has included, from its inception, a small merit-based grant program designed to create replicable examples of outstanding scenic byways projects. Hundreds of projects have been funded under this provision and information about these projects is shared through www.byways.org, the website of the byways program, and through a national “best practices” competition jointly administered by the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Presently, approximately $25 million annually is available for these grants; requests exceed $80 million annually.

Unfortunately, the future of the merit-based grant program is once again being threatened. In its action on funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation for Fiscal Year 2004 (HR 2989), the U.S. House of Representatives directed the spending of all available scenic byway grant monies for specific projects. At least some of the projects may not meet eligibility requirements for scenic byways grants. Inclusion of these earmarks in the final FY ‘04 budget for DOT will force denial of hundreds of projects prepared and submitted according to provisions of the byways program.

There is a bit of good news, however. The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations has approved a budget for DOT in FY ‘04 (S. 1589) which increases overall scenic byway program funding by $1 million and provides for 100% distribution of funds by merit, with no earmarking. Full Senate action on this measure is expected the week of September 22, and no amendments which would earmark byways funding are anticipated.

Once the Senate action is complete, a conference committee comprised of Senate and House Appropriations Committee members will be appointed to resolve differences, including the different treatment of byways funding.

At this time, the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway Council strongly urges the conference committee to adopt the Senate provisions pertaining to the National Scenic Byways Program. Because the voice of our Council is too quiet to be heard by the committee, we are asking you to be our voice. Please speak on behalf of the Rangeley Scenic Byway, the citizens of Maine, and the Byways communities around the country and urge the committee to eliminate the earmarking and adhere to the merit-based program that has been so successful.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Kurtz
Coordinator, Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway
207-864-7311

Sample Letter 2

Maryland National Road Association, Inc.
“The Road that Built the Nation”
10720 Folkestone Way
Woodstock, MD 21163

August 19, 2003

The Honorable Don Young, Chairman
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I write to you as president of the [501(c)(3)] Maryland National Road Association, Inc., and as a concerned citizen living in the most historic transportation corridor in the United States, the Historic National Road, designated an All-American Road in 2002 through FHWA’s National Scenic Byways Program.

Our organization opposes all efforts by the House Committee on Appropriations on the FY2004 budget for the U. S. Department of Transportation that would earmark all funding available for scenic byways projects, completely eliminating the merit-based grant selection process established by statute. I further urge your action – and offer organizational support for that action – to block this rewrite of TEA 21 through the appropriations process.

The Maryland National Road Association is an outgrowth of enormous grass-roots support for Maryland’s Historic National Road Corridor Partnership Plan. This community-based plan has provided the road map for projects funded with over $1M of grants awarded on a competitive basis through the National Scenic Byways Program since 1998.

Our success as an organization is not based on the use of political influence, but on the efforts of volunteers working long hours on projects identified in our Corridor Partnership Plan. What we get in return is our contribution to an enhanced quality of life through an economic strategy based on heritage tourism development-one of the many lofty goals of the National Scenic Byways Program.

Moreover, the Program is working. The success behind the National Scenic Byways Program is that it is community driven. I cannot stress that enough. This is clearly at cross-purposes with earmarking, as that process is driven solely by politics.

It should also be noted that the Historic National Road was the first All-American Road to be simultaneously designated through all six states through which the Road passes. Our nomination garnered bi-partisan support. Twenty-seven members of the Senate and Congress representing districts in Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois gave us unanimous support. This was based on the merit of the Historic National Road as a national treasure; there was no political strong-arming, just a lot of grass-roots support.

In addition to Congressional support, all executives of Baltimore City and the six counties in Maryland through which the Road passes support our efforts along the Historic National Road and for this, we are thankful. In doing so, they have followed the wishes of so many grass-roots byway efforts currently underway. They have not earmarked any Scenic Byways projects in the state of Maryland. I applaud them, even if it will ultimately be to our detriment. I hope it is not. Please maintain the integrity of this unique and successful program.

Thank you for your consideration of these views.

Sincerely,

Paul S. Bridge
President

CC: Senator Paul Sarbanes
Senator Barbara Mikulski
Representative Roscoe Bartlett
Representative Charles Ruppersberger
Representative Elijah C. Cummings

Sample Letter 3

August 14, 2003

Subject: U.S. Dept. of Transportation Budget – Scenic Byway Funding

I noticed in the House Appropriations Committee funding for TEA-21 that National scenic byways program funds are provided for an array of National Scenic Byways (NSB), but none of the NSB in the State of Oregon. I respectfully request that Oregon NSB be included for the listing of byways eligible for funding. The Rogue Umpqua National Scenic Byway which passes through Shady Cove is a significant contributor to our local tourism-based economy. Eligibility for funding to improve and enhance our byway and others in Oregon is essential. There are 5 byways in Southern Oregon alone, not counting the multitude of byways throughout the rest of the State.

It is my understanding that earmarking has occurred in the past two years, however, funding has remained available for merit-based awards. We do not want to lose the funding availability for merit-based awards in FY04.

The City of Shady Cove has been working with our tourism and public entity, and social and civic group partners to encumber funds for an array of enhancements. We also are collaborating with cities and towns along the 172-mile long byway, to rededicate our byway next year. Our byway was elevated from a Scenic Byway to a National Byway status, thanks to the hard work and continuing effort of a multitude of partners throughout Oregon. We don’t want to lose the momentum we have gained and we will lose that momentum if grants we are seeking are denied.

Shady Cove is a small community of 2,450, located in a rural area. Our economy is fragile and survives almost exclusively on tourism related industries. Please support open and honest deliberation for funding of scenic byways, and particularly for funding Oregon’s byways. Our byways belong to everyone. Funding for byways should not become a political football or fall prey to political wrangling. Voting to support our byways is voting to support the continuity and sharing of our heritage, culture, history, natural, scenic, recreational and archaeological qualities. Please call me at 541 878 3757 if there is anything I can do to help.

Sincerely,

Elise A. Smurzynski
City Administrator