America the beautiful, indeed. If there's anything the pandemic has taught us, it's that some of the world's most stunning destinations are right here within our own borders. To celebrate that, Scenic America announced last week the addition of 49 new designations to its America's Byways collection — 34 National Scenic Byways and 15 All-American Roads.
While there hadn't been any new additions since 2009, the prestigious list now includes a total of 184 byways in 48 states. As part of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration, the National Scenic Byways Program was established in 1991 to recognize "roadways with notable scenic, historic, cultural, natural, recreational, and archaeological qualities," the Scenic America site describes. Those who are given the National Scenic Byway designation must meet one of those criteria, while the ones called All-American Roads need to do so in at least two of those categories.
Among the new National Scenic Byways are California's Historic Route 66 Needles to Barstow Scenic Byway, Louisiana's Boom or Bust Byway, New Jersey's Pine Barrens Byway, New York's Palisades Scenic Byway, and Wisconsin's Lake Superior Scenic Byway, while newly minted All-American Roads include Arkansas' Great River Road National Scenic Byway, Massachusetts' Battle Road Scenic Byway, Maryland's Chesapeake Country, Missouri's Historic Route 66, North Carolina and Tennessee's Newfound Gap Road Byway, and Wyoming's Flaming Gorge-Green River Basin Scenic Byway. A full list can be found here.
The hope is that by highlighting these essential American routes, it will help restimulate the tourism industry. The scenic byways have long been seen as a major part of the nation's $2.9 trillion tourism industry, according to the U.S. Travel Association's 2019 figures. For example, the designated Blue Ridge Parkway accounted for $1.4 billion that year, per the National Park Service.
"The National Scenic Byways Program brings new jobs, tourism, and other benefits to communities along these scenic roads, which are often located in parts of the country where such resources are desperately needed and harder to come by," Scenic America president Mark Falzone said in a statement. "We are excited to partner with the new designees as they tap into the program's benefits, and we look forward to helping other byways across the country in applying for future byways designations."
The announcement came as Congress dedicated $16 million in funding to the program as part of the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act enacted on Dec. 29, 2020. According to the release, it was the first dedicated funding the program received since 2012.
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