Initially established in 1991 by Congress in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), the National Scenic Byways Program was strengthened by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) in 1998 and the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) in 2005.
The first designations, in September of 1996, included:
Alabama: Selma to Montgomery March Byway
California: Big Sur Coast Highway
Colorado: Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway & San Juan Skyway
Connecticut: Connecticut State Route 169 & Merritt Parkway
Louisiana: Creole Nature Trail
Minnesota: Edge of the Wilderness Byway
Nevada: Lake Tahoe – Eastshore Drive & Pyramid Lake Scenic Byway
New Hampshire: Kancamagus Scenic Byway
New York: Great Lakes Seaway Trail
North Carolina: Blue Ridge Parkway
South Dakota: Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway
Tennessee: Cherohala Skyway
West Virginia: Highland Scenic Highway
Natchez Trace Parkway (Alabama, Mississippi & Tennessee)
Designations continued annually until October 2009 with 150 National Scenic Byways and 39 All-American Roads across 46 states.
In 2012, funding and administration for the program were eliminated.
The passage of the Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act of 2019 was the first step in re-authorizing the program. In December 2020, a stimulus bill authorizing $16 million in funding for the program was signed by the President. The 117th Congress will address the program’s future funding, and new byways designations will be announced in early 2021.
As The National Voice of Scenic Byways & Road, NSBF has led advocacy efforts resulting in re-authorization and stimulus funding. Your membership in, and grassroots support of, NSBF is critical to restoring funding for byways competitive grants.