Scenic Byways:

A National Program, if Created, Should Be Small Scale

RCED-90-241: Published: Sep 28, 1990. Publicly Released: Oct 29, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed various scenic byways designated by state and private organizations, focusing on the: (1) characteristics of selected byway programs and activities; (2) criteria for designating byways; and (3) issues raised by state and private officials concerning the creation of a national scenic byways program.

GAO found that: (1) states and private groups established most byways to promote tourism or preserve scenic beauty; (2) the characteristics, funding sources, management, and designation criteria of the 27 programs and activities reviewed in 10 states varied widely; (3) promotion techniques for byways involved maps, books, brochures, and signs; (4) states most often used general state revenue, private-sector funding, and federal-aid highway funds to finance byway programs and activities; (5) designation criteria included accessibility, quality of scenery, historic value, and availability of attractions; (6) designation sometimes resulted in new roadside facilities, improved landscaping, and restrictions on commercial activities and outdoor advertising; and (7) byway officials wanted strong state and local involvement in any national scenic byway program, but supported federal funding and federal involvement in information sharing and promotion of byways.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As part of a $155-billion authorization for surface transportation, Congress authorized a 6-year, $50-million Scenic Byways Program.

    Matter: If Congress decides to create a national scenic byway program, such a program should be of limited scope. The federal-aid highway program already provides funds that can be used to make improvements to scenic byways on the federal-aid highway system. Any efforts to significantly expand federal-aid highway funding for byways may not be warranted at this time, given the need for funds to adequately address the nation's highway and bridge needs and the concerns that many state byway officials have over the creation of a large national program.


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