Written by Scenic America
America’s scenic roadways got a major boost in Congress on February 6 as the House of Representatives passed a bill to restart the dormant National Scenic Byways Program, while companion legislation was introduced in the Senate.
“We are thrilled with Congress’ support for scenic byways,” said Mark Falzone, president of Scenic America. “The National Scenic Byways Program is a proven winner: it protects places with historic, scenic and cultural significance and contributes to local economies by promoting them as destinations.”
The House Bill, H.R. 831, sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, and Rep. Garret Graves, Republican of Louisiana, passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 404 – 19.
“As Rhode Islanders know, our state is home to some of the most beautiful scenic byways in the country,” said Rep. Cicilline. “This bipartisan bill will allow us to capitalize on our state’s natural beauty and generate millions of dollars in new economic activity. I’m pleased that this bill passed the House today and I look forward to seeing it signed into law.”
“Louisiana’s historical byways weave through her natural beauty and help tell the story of our history and unique culture. They are critical to preserving our heritage, growing our economy for the future and caring for our rural communities,” said Rep. Graves.
The Senate bill, S. 349, also enjoys bipartisan support and is sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland.
“I am proud that my home state of Maine boasts not only three National Scenic Byways, but also the Acadia All-American Road. These roadways provide Mainers and tourists alike with spectacular views and memorable experiences, while at the same time spurring much-needed economic activity in the surrounding areas,” said Senator Collins. “The National Scenic Byways Program represents a true win-win scenario by protecting precious corridors and providing tangible benefits for local communities.”
“Maryland is home to 18 designated byways, and the reopening of this program will be beneficial to future development and maintenance of these important routes,” said Senator Cardin. “This program helps direct visitors to areas of interest along our scenic byways, and generates revenue for the surrounding communities.”
“We applaud the exemplary leadership of Rep. Cicilline and Rep. Graves resulting in today’s passage of scenic byways legislation in the House,” said Falzone. “And we extend our sincere appreciation to Senator Collins and Senator Cardin for their visionary support of our country’s scenic roadways and rural economies. We look forward to helping pass their bill in the Senate.”
Since its inception in 1991 the program has bestowed the National Scenic Byway designation on 150 roads around the country, but the last round of designations occurred ten years ago and Congress officially pulled support for the program in 2012.
National Scenic Byways have been shown to generate significant economic activity for nearby communities, many of which are small and rural in nature. A 2010 report from the University of Minnesota showed a $21.6 million economic impact from traveler spending along both the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway and nearby Lake Country Scenic Byway. A 2013 study of Scenic Byway 12 in Utah found that the byway generated nearly $13 million annually in local spending.
A recent survey found that 44 state scenic byways across the country are prepared to take advantage of the legislation as soon as the program is reopened. “The National Scenic Byway designation means these roads are sought out by both domestic and international travelers, and it’s critical that we provide local byways with the opportunity to seek the national recognition and reap the well-established benefits,” said Falzone.
Scenic America encourages the public to reach out to their Members of Congress in support of this bill by visiting: www.scenic.org/byways