Scenic Byways Policy
August 10, 2005, was a remarkable day for recreation advocates in the United States. President George W. Bush signed SAFETEA–LU, the five-year, $286.4 billion omnibus transportation bill which replaces TEA-21. The bill substantially increases funding for a number of recreation-related programs including the Recreational Trails Program, the National Scenic Byways Program, the Federal Lands Highway Program, the Transportation Enhancement Program, the Sportfishing and Recreational Boating Safety Act and funding for bicycle and pedestrian facility improvements. An estimated $1.5 billion per year will go toward outdoor-related programs overall, not including millions of dollars for specific “high priority” community trail and recreation projects throughout the nation.
HOUSE PASSES TEA-LU
On March 10, 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3, the Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (TEA LU), by a vote of 417-9. The bill increases funding for the National Scenic Byways Program from TEA-21 levels to $30, $40, $45, $55 (two years) and $60 million over the same time period. The legislation also authorizes funding – $3.5 million annually – for the America’s Byways Resource Center to provide technical support and conduct educational activities for local officials and organizations associated with National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads.
EIGHT-MONTH HIGHWAY BILL EXTENSION PASSED BY HOUSE
(September 30, 2004) The House voted 409-8 today to extend current surface transportation programs an additional eight months, as Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, vowed to keep trying for a conference deal on a stalled six-year highway reauthorization bill. The extension (HR 5183), which the Senate is expected to clear later today, would keep highway, public transportation and road safety programs going through May 31, 2005. It would provide about $24.5 billion in budget authority for highway programs, while transit programs would receive $5.2 billion, $4.2 billion of which would come from the Highway Trust Fund and an additional $1 billion would come from the general fund. House leaders gave in to the Senate in a dispute over $2 billion that the House wanted for road projects earmarked by members. Instead, those funds would be allocated in a way that ensures that each state receives its guaranteed 90.5 cents return per dollar of gas tax contributed for fiscal 2004.
Source: Congressional Quarterly 9-30-04
**** URGENT NEED FOR ACTION ****
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE EARMARKS ALL FY04 SCENIC BYWAYS GRANT MONEY
On July 24, the full House Committee on Appropriations approved legislation establishing the budget for the U.S. Department of Transportation for Fiscal Year 2004 – the year which begins October 1, 2003. Included in the committee’s action were a number of contentious steps involving Transportation Enhancements and scenic byways. If the scenic byways provision is not altered, there will not be ANY funds available for award by the Federal Highway Administration next year under the traditional merit selection process.
SCENIC BYWAYS KEY POINTS
FOR COMMUNICATIONS ABOUT TEA-21 REAUTHORIZATION:
The nation now has a system of nearly one hundred national scenic byways and All-American Roads. These routes play a wonderful role in telling our nation's stories to millions of travelers each year.
We ask for several important revisions to the byways program:
- The National Scenic Byways Program includes a small, merit-based grant program designed to create replicable examples of top scenic byways projects, with lessons learned used in projects funded under other surface transportation funding. Qualifying applications for these grants greatly exceed available funds of some $25 million annually. We recommend a significant increase in funding for these grants. We also wish to see the grant program modified to include development of national priorities which would be reflected in grant awards.
Sample Letter on Reauthorization
The Honorable Don Young, Chairman
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Young:
In December 1991, legislation creating the National Scenic Byways Program was enacted. The (name of byway) was designated in (year), and is one of nearly one hundred national scenic byways and All-American Roads specially chosen under this program. These routes play a wonderful role in telling our nation’s stories to millions of travelers each year. We are delighted that the Administration has proposed continuation and expansion of the National Scenic Byways Program in its legislative proposal labeled SAFETEA, and we applaud the efforts of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to do the same as the nation’s surface transportation programs are reauthorized.
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.