WE PUT TEXAS ON THE MAP!
Texas WAS the ONLY state in the nation that didn’t have a Scenic Byway Program. Thanks to our advocacy efforts in the 87th Legislative Session, we now officially have a State Scenic Byway program and potentially 30 Texas Scenic Highways.
The State Scenic Byways Program will help preserve our landscapes and nature, while supporting local communities and businesses.
Senate Bill 941 by Sen. Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) and sponsored by Rep. Eddie Morales (D-Eagle Pass) goes into effect September 1, making Texas the last state in the nation to join this federal program to preserve and acknowledge dozens of scenic roads across the state.
The Scenic Byways Bill was focused on two major points:
- Creating a State Scenic Byway Program under TxDOT which would allow for local communities to apply for and receive federal grants if qualified; and
- Designation of 30 already statutorily protected roadways from the construction of new billboards. These roadways automatically qualify to be a part of the state scenic byway program.
The purpose of this legislation was to (1) increase tourism along Texas roadways; and (2) preserve the state’s most scenically, culturally, or historically significant roadways and adjacent communities.
- This bill does not create any new stretches of roadways that cannot have billboards.
- Designating a stretch of road as a ‘Scenic Byway’ does not create a burden for the local communities. Designation as a ‘Scenic Byway’ is just that, a designation. The pursuit of federal funding as a Scenic Byway must be a community-led effort, requiring local buy-in and would do so by applying through TxDOT.
Some of the most common uses of scenic byway funds are used for tourism purposes like a welcome center or beautification efforts.
Scenic Byways bring significant economic benefit to local communities and are a critical part of America’s travel and tourism industry, which generated $2.9 trillion in economic impact in 2019, according to the U.S. Travel Association. For example, the Blue Ridge Parkway generated $1.4 billion in economic output and supported 16,300 jobs in North Carolina and Virginia in 2019, according to the National Park Service. During the same year, the Natchez Trace Scenic Parkway brought $13.1 million in economic output to Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi, supporting 161 jobs.