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The America's Byways Program and Route 66

(Released: November, 2005)

Our office recently learned that Route 66 in Missouri has been officially designated a State Scenic Byway. This is great news! Missouri joins Oklahoma Route 66, which also recently became a State Scenic Byway. Both states will now follow Illinois, New Mexico, and Arizona in their effort to become National Scenic Byways.

Scenic Byways are considered special roads for many reasons. First, they are a select few that are chosen from among thousands of other roads in the nation for their beauty, history, and/or recreational opportunities. Byways provide unique opportunities to experience the diversity of our country, and to slow down and see the real America.
As one of the most recognized historic highways in the world, it is only fitting that Route 66 be part of Scenic Byways program. However, becoming a Byway is a no insignificant task, and involves intensive coordination and planning by affected Byway communities. Although the program is administered by the Federal Highway Administration and state Departments of Transportation, the success and strength of a Byway program is dependant on the voluntary, grassroots efforts of its local communities and leaders. It usually takes months, even years, to fully prepare and organize a Byway program. The reward is enhanced quality of life for the Byway communities through the preservation, protection, interpretation, and promotion of the Byway resources, as well as an enhanced travel experience for visitors.
Specifically, being part of the Byway program brings technical and financial assistance for such things as interpretive maps and brochures, resource protection, and visitor facilities. There is also tremendous opportunity for marketing Route 66 through the Scenic Byways program, which is recognized nationally and internationally as great source for vacation planning. With greater awareness about traveling Route 66, more travelers can be expected. This of course can mean increased economic opportunities for Byway communities, and more resources for the preservation of Route 66 buildings and culture.
The future may hold another opportunity for Route 66 to unite across states to become a coveted “All-American Road.” To receive this prestigious designation, a road must possess “multiple intrinsic qualities that are nationally significant, and contain one-of-a-kind features that do not exist elsewhere. The road must also be considered a destination unto itself. That is, the road must provide an exceptional traveling experience so recognized by travelers that the primary reason for their trip would be to drive along the Byway.” Sound like Route 66? You bet. To date there are only 27 roads in the nation with this special designation, and Route 66 – at the moment anyway – is conspicuous by its absence.
The Byway program is an exceptional opportunity for Route 66. It is an important part of the toolkit for the long-term preservation and commemoration of the Route 66 corridor. Through collaboration, great things are possible. By combining the complementary resources of the Byways program, the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, and grassroots organizations, preservation and promotion initiatives can be greatly strengthened. To support or learn more about the Route 66 Byway programs, or to travel on one, visit, or call 1-800-4BYWAYS (1-800-429-9297.)

Kaisa Barthuli
Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program
National Park Service

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