Byways 101

Part 4: Planning, Action & Nomination

Where To Find Information

The National Scenic Byways Program website includes a nomination section (, which is the official source of information for national designation. The website provides nominees with important information, articles and resources to guide the development of a nomination for national designation. Two key pieces of important information include:

  • FHWA Official Solicitation Memo
    With each new nomination cycle, the Federal Highway Administration releases an official solicitation memo to provide details on the necessary steps for submitting nomination materials. This FHWA memo describes the submission and review process for byway nominations.
  • Interim Policy, May 18, 1995
    The Interim Policy is the principal policy guiding the National Scenic Byways Program, published in the Federal Register in 1995. This policy sets forth the criteria for the designation of roads as National Scenic Byways or All-American Roads based upon their scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, archaeological, and/or natural intrinsic qualities. The Policy also specifies: key definitions, requirements for designation, the process for nomination, the process and content that must be addressed in development of a corridor management plan, eligible categories for National Scenic Byways Program grant funds; and information on the prohibition of outdoor advertising.

Four Requirements For Preparing A Nomination For National Designation
For byways that plan to submit a nomination to the National Scenic Byways Program, consider these four important requirements for your nomination materials. Thoroughly addressing these items will help reviewers as they assess the completeness and strength of your nomination.

1. Tell Your Byway’s Story
For byways preparing a nomination for designation, remember that nomination is not about filling out an application. It is all about telling the byway’s story, the significance of its intrinsic qualities, and what a visitor discovers by traveling the byway. Nominees might want to think of their byway’s nomination as a thorough and complete visitor’s guide for the byway.

2. Establish Regional Or National Significance
Byways preparing a nomination for designation must provide documentation of the “regional or national significance” of their byways. This significance is what will set your byway apart from others, and identify your route as a special contribution to the America’s Byways® collection.

3. Address Outdoor Advertising And Byway Segmentation
As stated in the Interim Policy, #11: Scenic Byways and the Prohibition of Outdoor Advertising:

“As provided at 23 U.S.C. 131(s), if a State has a State scenic byway program, the State may not allow the erection of new signs not in conformance with 23 U.S.C. 131© along any highway on the Interstate System or Federal-aid primary system which before, on, or after December 18, 1991, has been designated as a scenic byway under the State’s scenic byway program. This prohibition would also apply to Interstate System and Federal-aid primary system highways that are designated scenic byways under the National Scenic Byways Program and All-American Roads Program, whether or not they are designated as State scenic byways.”

While local units of government generally control outdoor advertising, the one Federal regulation that applies to State or nationally designated byways is that it prohibits new billboards when the route is part of an Interstate, National Highway System, or former Federal-aid primary road [23 U.S.C. 131(s)]. Local, county, or State laws are responsible for billboard control on designated byways in other road classifications.

Sometimes applying this Federal regulation causes confusion, and new billboards may be permitted in error on designated scenic byways. Communities can obtain more information about the connection between scenic byway designation and regulation from the State byway coordinator and the FHWA’s office division realty specialist for that State.

An issue that may come up is whether gaps or segmentation in a byway designation are allowed, particularly in commercial or industrial areas. This question may arise when a road is being considered for designation as a byway, or years after its designation. Regardless of timing, the considerations are the same: a portion of the road may be excluded from designation as a scenic byway if:

  • The determination is consistent with the State’s scenic byway program;
  • The road or property along the road does not possess, or is not essential to, the
    intrinsic qualities related to the designation of the road as a scenic byway; and
  • The action is not designed solely to evade federal outdoor advertising requirements.

During the process of gathering local opinions about the route, advocates interested in closing these gaps can use their survey results to assist decision makers responsible for these local zoning changes.

If State and local officials decide to segment a byway, carefully consider the travelers’ experience. Too many gaps can undermine the visual harmony of the intrinsic qualities and the continuity of the experience. Where gaps are necessary or appropriate, it is permissible and desirable to include wayfinding signs for the byway along these segments so travelers can easily locate to the designated byway.

Byways with any sections excluded from the original designation can nonetheless work to improve the intrinsic qualities in the excluded areas to be compatible with the designated byway route. Designated historic districts offer a useful model: communities protect historic districts by adopting regulations to preserve the historic character of a neighborhood. Frequently, these districts also include buildings that do not contribute to the historic integrity of the area. Yet as these communities evolve, non-contributing buildings, which are subject to guidelines and design controls that improve their visual quality over time, become more in keeping with the visual character of the historic district.

Similarly, communities can seek to enhance sections of byways that do not initially contribute to the overall byway. Many commercial and industrial areas are already attractive⎯or can become so with care and investment. Byways that include areas commercial or industrial zones can strive to make them visually compatible with the byway.

4. Develop A Corridor Management Plan
A corridor management plan is a mandatory part of a complete nomination package for designation to the National Scenic Byways Program. The corridor management plan is very important to the designation process, as it provides an understanding of how a road or highway possesses characteristics vital for designation as a National Scenic Byway or an All-American Road.

The FHWA’s Interim Policy (Federal Register, Vol. 60, No. 96, May 18, 1995) specifies the requirements for corridor management plans for byways seeking nomination as a National Scenic Byway or All-American Road:

A corridor management plan for a National Scenic Byway must include 14 items, with an additional three items that must be addressed for byways seeking designation as an All-American Road.

The corridor management plan must be developed with community involvement and it must be adopted by the appropriate body and process.

It should provide for the conservation and enhancement of the byway’s intrinsic qualities as well as the promotion of tourism and economic development.

The plan should provide an effective management strategy to balance these concerns while providing for the users’ enjoyment of the byway.