Idaho’s intrinsic beauty will get a little more attention as a result of federal funding announced last week that enhances the state’s scenic byway system.
Garry Young, coordinator of the transportation department’s Idaho Scenic Byway program learned Friday that nine of 10 projects submitted to the Federal Highway Administration earlier this year were approved for funding. The national list was posted on bywaysonline.org .
Perhaps even more gratifying than knowing 90 percent (nine of 10) applications were approved was the level at which they were funded. Idaho requested $1,505,864 for the 10 projects. It will receive $1,443,234, or 95.8 percent, of the funds it sought.
The largest of the nine projects, Young explains, will create a scenic byway center in Driggs that will promote not only breath-taking views from the Teton Scenic Byway, but also will serve as a centerpiece for all of Idaho’s scenic byways.
Driggs city leaders recently acquired a vacant grocery store and will convert about half of it into city hall and related offices. The other half will house the Teton Scenic Byway Center and an art gallery. Both will promote tourism and appeal to the large volume of traffic on a 69-mile byway that begins in Ashton and connects with U.S. 26.
The scenic byway committee requested more than $616,000 in federal byway funds to augment $380,000 in local match funds for the project.
Young expects remodeling to begin on the new byway visitor center next spring. The project includes construction of a plaza in front of the building.
A scenic byway consortium, led by Idaho as the primary applicant, will receive $428,000 for a regional marketing and promotional effort for the Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies. The promotional effort will include the three All-American Roads in the northern Rocky Mountain region along with state and national scenic byways in Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, Montana and British Columbia.
The marketing program will include the promotion of 19 byways in an effort to attract both domestic and international travelers to the region.
The other large project included in the 2007 funding will reconstruct an historic rest area/visitors’ facility near the Galena summit on Idaho 75. The Bethine and Frank Church Scenic Overlook (formerly the Galena Overlook) provides mountaintop views of the Sawtooth range and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Scenic byway funds will provide $200,000 for renovation of the rest area/visitor’s center.
Congress established the Scenic Byway program as part of the 1991 transportation bill, Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). Since its creation, the program has grown to a funding level of about $30 million annually.
Among Idaho’s 28 scenic byways are: