History of the Program

The Alabama Scenic Byway Program seeks to identify, preserve, protect and enhance scenic, historic, natural, recreational, cultural and archaeological resources; enhance recreation; and, promote economic development through tourism and education in the history, culture and natural beauty of Alabama.

The Federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) created the National Scenic Byways Program. The goal of this program is to recognize and promote outstanding corridors throughout the United States, promote tourism, and protect the resources that make these facilities outstanding. Before a road can become a National Scenic Byway, it first must be designated a State Scenic Byway. Beginning in the early 1990’s federal money was made available to states desiring to create a Scenic Byway Program. Alabama capitalized on this revenue source to develop the Alabama Scenic Byway Program. This led to the creation of state Scenic Byway Programs around the country throughout the 1990’s up to the present.

In the early 1990’s, in compliance with ISTEA requirements, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) designated a State Scenic Byway Coordinator. The initial Byways implemented in Alabama utilized the Legislature and the Governor to designate State Scenic Byways. This process resulted in the designation of three Scenic Byways that eventually were designated as National Scenic Byways: Talladega Scenic Drive; Natchez Trace Scenic Byway and the Selma to Montgomery March Scenic Byway/All American Road/National Historic Trail.

Based on the success of the National Scenic Byways, the Alabama Scenic Byway Program evolution continued in 1998 when a group of interested citizens began working on the concept of Scenic Byway Program Guidelines for Alabama that would assist interested citizens with identifying and designating additional Scenic Byways. Ultimately, this effort led to the passage of the Alabama the Beautiful Act (SB438) in 2000, sponsored by Senator Wendell Mitchell, allowing for creation of the Alabama Scenic Byway Advisory Council (SBAC), The Alabama Scenic Byways Designating Committee and a more formalized approach to the Alabama Scenic Byway Program. In 2001, the Regional Planning Commissions, working with the Alabama Department of Transportation and the Alabama Scenic Byway Advisory Council, distributed surveys to gauge interest in the Program. The response was overwhelming, leading to the development of a Program Manual that will be used to help identify truly outstanding facilities and guide interested parties through the Byway process. A number of existing state programs were reviewed to assist with development of the Alabama Scenic Byway Program allowing Alabama to build on the experience of other Byway Programs.

The Alabama state scenic byway program was consciously patterned after the National Scenic Byway Program. This approach ensures that Alabama Scenic Byways are eligible to become National Scenic Byways and also provides a host of funding opportunities to assist with development of Scenic Byways in Alabama.