by Jason Epperson
Legislation authored by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) to protect and promote America’s scenic roadways has been signed into law after passing the Senate unanimously, and by a 404-19 margin in the House of Representatives.
The “Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act of 2019” will restart the designation process for the National Scenic Byways Program, which went dormant in 2012 when it wasn’t reauthorized by congress. The new law will be permanent, and will not require periodic reauthorization.
Through the program, Scenic roads across the country are recognized based on one or more archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities. 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.
Since 1991, 150 roads around the country have been recognized. The new law requires the Secretary of Transportation to start the application process for new byways within 90 days and to designate a round of new National Scenic Byways within one year. The Federal Highway Administration is tasked with developing procedures for the nomination process and publishing the process on its website within the 90-day window. 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 RV Industry played a major role in lobbying for the new law. “The RV Industry Association is proud to have supported the Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act,” said RV Industry Association Vice President of Government Affairs Jay Landers. “RVers regularly drive down National Scenic Byways, like Historic Route 66, Skyline Drive, or the Blue Ridge Parkway. We applaud Congress and the President for reopening the National Scenic Byways Program and ensuring that millions of Americans will continue to be able to experience the magic of the open road.”