Am Recreation Coalition – Surface Transportation Bill Update

The following is an update from the American Recreation Coalition on the status of a new Surface Transportation Bill as it relates to the America’s Byways program and the program’s inclusion in a new bill.

The Senate began its floor consideration of MAP-21, February 9, 2012. There will be extensive debate and amendments on the legislation, which would establish a two year national surface transportation program, far shorter than the normal 5-6 year program. The Senate version is similar in spending to the House version for those two years, but is significantly different in programs, length and funding strategy.

For the National Scenic Byways Program, MAP-21contains major disappointments. It discontinues the technical assistance program operated under a cooperative agreement by the America’s Byways Resource Center. It also eliminates any funding set-aside for a national competitive grant program. Further, it authorizes states to use funding under the general Transportation Mobility Program for byways “projects,” but not programs – and all byways projects must now compete with the full range of eligible transportation projects. However, the authority to designate byways and provide support for the National Scenic Byways Program is unchanged.

The House measure, which was approved after an acrimonious full-committee mark-up early in the morning on February 3, is far worse. HR 7 repeals the National Scenic Byways Program – designation, funding and technical assistance. The status of the current remarkable collection of 150 All-American Roads and National Scenic Byways would be very uncertain, just as the nation is recognizing the value of parks, byways and other portions of the Great Outdoors to the economy, especially in growing international tourism and its promise of jobs.

It is vital for byways program leaders and stakeholders to do two things:

1) Act immediately to contact members of the US Senate and urge each Senator to speak out in favor of scenic byways during the floor debate, and to engage the floor managers of the bill (Majority and Minority) in recorded discussions to underscore that MAP-21 envisions a continuation of the National Scenic Byways Program. Deadline: February 14.

2) Act within 10 days to contact members of the US House and urge each to take actions to remove the repeal of the National Scenic Byways Program from HR 7. Note that stripped of the grant and America’s Byways Resources Center provisions, the continuation of the program will be virtually cost-free. Deadline: February 20.