WASHINGTON – A revival of the National Scenic Byways program is underway after a bill became law last month requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation to open an application process for new scenic byways – which supporters say attract travelers and promote economic development.
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., introduced the Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act of 2019 in January. The legislation is intended to restart the National Scenic Byways program, which has designated 150 roads in 47 states as National Scenic Byways or All-American Roads, one of which is the San Juan Skyway, a 233-mile loop that travels through Durango, Silverton, Ouray, Ridgway, past Telluride and through Rico, Dolores and Mancos. At least 44 roads in 17 states are being considered as scenic byways.
Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., said he is glad to see the act “receive overwhelming support in Congress.”
“The San Juan Skyway is an especially unique portion of highway offering unparalleled views of some of the tallest peaks in the state and runs through many ancestral Indian Pueblo ruins, increasing interest for visitors to learn the history of our district,” Tipton said in an email to The Durango Herald. “You are unlikely to find anyone who is not supportive of promoting these historically and culturally important highways across our country.”
Scenic byways attract travelers and are treasured by locals, said San Juan County Commissioner Pete McKay, and revival of the program is supported by many.
“San Juan County is absolutely in support of the revival,” McKay said. “Scenic byways are so vital to our tourist economy, and we feel that this can only be positive for our county, our region and the nation.”
The application process will take place over the next 90 days, and a new round of national scenic byways will be designated within a year, according to the bill.
Ayelet Sheffey is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.