America's Byways Program and Route 66
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.
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 www.byways.org, or call 1-800-4BYWAYS
Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program
National Park Service