Building A Scenic Byways Program For The Future: A New and Exciting Role for the Byways Coalition

Washington, D.C. (November 17, 2005) Derrick Crandall, president of ARC, has announced that leaders in the transportation, recreation, conservation, tourism, heritage and economic development communities have agreed to revitalize the national coalition that led to the creation of the National Scenic Byways Program in 1991.

The American Recreation Coalition, America’s Byways Resources Center and Scenic America will coordinate efforts to:

  • document the substantial accomplishments of the National Scenic Byways Program since its inception, including the results of thousands of competitively-awarded grants totaling some $300,000,000; and
  • establish a widely-supported vision for the goals and priorities of the byways program over the next 15 years.

The 15th anniversary of the byways program presents a golden opportunity to give the National Scenic Byways Program new momentum, to showcase its considerable achievements, as well as to secure new champions and outline new and exciting byways initiatives made possible through a re-energized national coalition. Plans for the future include:

  • a special event on Capitol Hill in December 2005 to announce the Scenic Byways 2021 effort and the formation of a new blue-ribbon panel of nationally prominent figures to review and recommend new goals for the byways program;
  • creation of a new byways accomplishments showcase – on paper and on the Internet;
  • a national forum and celebration to be held in December 2006 in Washington to mark the 15th anniversary of the byways program and to receive and discuss the blue-ribbon panel’s report; and
  • a coordinated presentation to the new National Commission on Surface Transportation Policy and Revenues, created expressly by the Congress to provide guidance and recommendations for the anticipated 2009 surface transportation bill.

These and other initiatives will help make the National Scenic Byways Program a continuing, shining star in the national surface transportation program. 2006 will be a critical year for the byways program and other key federal transportation programs because: (br>

  • the Interstate Highway system celebrates its 50th year in June, while the National Scenic Byways Program marks its 15th anniversary in December 2006;
  • the future of all federal surface transportation efforts will be under review by policy makers, including through the SAFETEA-LU-created National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission; and
  • it is clear that the Congress is seeking a discussion about future federal roles in transportation, and byways interests should respond to this invitation.

There are both opportunities for and risks to the National Scenic Byways Program. Among the risks are:

  • overall tightness in the federal budget due to special needs ranging from anti-terrorism to hurricane recovery;
  • local support for byways projects has helped fuel a pattern of earmarking which undercuts the merit-based and competitive design of the byways grant program;
  • a real threat to the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund from price-driven conservation and new fuels and technologies; and
  • the scenic byways program suffers from a distracted national constituency – coalition members have turned their attention to other important issues since 1991 because the byway program has been so popular.

Byways, like the Interstate Highway program, didn’t happen by accident. Five key ingredients were present in 1991, which made the idea a political reality.

  • The concept of a national byways effort had received the endorsement of a national commission whose membership included four Members of Congress, a key governor and the CEO of the National Geographic Society;
  • The deft actions of a core group of supporters secured Congressional action ordering FHWA to study the desirability of a byways program and make recommendations regarding its design, just as the nation considered post-Interstate Highway needs.
  • The Byways movement had potent, active political champions including President George H. W. Bush, U.S. Representative Jim Oberstar, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller and others.
  • Byways were actively boosted by a unique coalition of transportation, recreation, historic preservation, conservation, tourism and economic development interests – plus federal land management agencies.
  • And the timing was auspicious, as the Congress and transportation leaders were seeking a broader political base to support transportation programs.

Byways advocates feel that re-invigorating this successful effort is vital to the long-range success of the National Scenic Byways Program, which now includes 125 nationally-designated byways and All-American Roads. Coalition leaders welcome the active involvement of all interests in this effort.

For further information, contact:

Derrick Crandall, President
American Recreation Coalition