Bristol’s “Revolutionary Heritage Byway” Awarded National Distinction & Becomes RI’s First National Scenic Byway

Feb 18, 2021 Issues: Jobs and the Economy

BRISTOL, RI – U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (RI-01), along with U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), announced today that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has selected Bristol’s “Revolutionary Heritage Byway” as Rhode Island’s first National Scenic Byway, a designation that was made possible by a law Cicilline authored in 2019. The designation, along with a new federal appropriation sponsored by Senator Reed, means Bristol could compete for a share of federal funds through a National Scenic Byways competitive grant program.

“My first priority has always been to grow Rhode Island’s economy and create good-paying jobs for the men and women who live here. I’m proud that Bristol’s Revolutionary Heritage Byway is now a National Scenic Byway. This designation will benefit families not only in Bristol, but across our state, by bringing even more activity to our tourism economy,” said Congressman Cicilline, who authored a letter of support for Bristol’s proposal to the Federal Highway Administration. Congress stopped funding the National Scenic Byways program in 2012. At the time, Rhode Island was one of just four states that had not received a Scenic Byway designation. In 2019, Cicilline revived the program when his Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act (H.R. 831) was signed into law, allowing communities like Bristol to once again compete for this designation.

“I commend Congressman Cicilline and Senator Whitehouse for their leadership jumpstarting the National Scenic Byways designation program. Now that the Revolutionary Heritage Byway has received its designation, I hope Bristol will receive a share of the National Scenic Byways competitive grant program I included in the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations law. These funds are designed to help keep America beautiful, preserve special places and open roads, and continue a legacy of stewardship along significant corridors like the one we have here in Bristol. This charming, historic, patriotic, and beautiful stretch of road deserves to be preserved and promoted. This designation brings us another step closer to providing critical federal funds to do just that,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee who strongly supported Bristol’s bid for this federal designation and led efforts to open new federal funding opportunities for Bristol and other communities that have been recognized by FHWA. Reed, along with U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), were the driving force behind the creation of a new $16 million Scenic Byways competitive grant, which they successfully included in the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations law. This marks the first dedicated federal funding stream for this program since 2012. As a result of Reed’s leadership, Bristol and other scenic byways around the country may apply for federal grants to maintain and promote these significant roadways and corridors; make safety improvements; and upgrade facilities to better serve pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers.

“Bristol is one of the most beautiful and historic towns in Rhode Island, and I’m glad this stretch will finally be recognized as the state’s very first National Scenic Byway,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Much credit goes to Congressman Cicilline, who led the years-long effort to secure this special designation and the opportunities for federal investment that come with it.”

The Revolutionary Heritage Byway consists of a six-mile route in Bristol, consisting of two roadways, State Route 114, also known as Hope Street and Ferry Road, and High Street. The route received a local scenic byway designation through the Rhode Island Scenic Roadways Board in August 2000. While on the Byway, travelers are taken past historic homes, waterfront sites, and the site of America’s oldest continuous Fourth of July celebration, as well as other destinations, including Colt State Park, Coggshell Farm Museum, Linden Place Museum, Blithewold Mansion Museum, and Mount Hope Farm.

From 1991 until 2012, the Department of Transportation’s National Scenic Byways Program designated 150 roads across America as “National Scenic Byways.” Communities receiving the designation were able to generate millions of dollars in new annual economic activity. One report from the University of Minnesota in 2010 found that travelers on the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway and the Lake Country Scenic Byway provided $21.6 million in economic activity for the area. Another study in Utah in 2013 found almost $13 million in annual economic activity from Scenic Byway 12.

“The National Scenic Byways Program brings new jobs, tourism, and other benefits to communities along these scenic roads. We are grateful to Rep. Cicilline for his leadership in passing Public Law No. 116-57, The Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act, which made today’s announcement possible,” said Scenic America President Mark Falzone. “We congratulate Revolutionary Heritage Byway on their designation as a National Scenic Byway today and are excited to partner with them as they tap into the program’s benefits.”

In order to be eligible for a National Scenic Byway designation, roads must meet one of six qualifications: scenic quality, natural quality, historic quality, cultural quality, archaeological quality, or recreational quality. Additionally, the community must create a plan to maintain the byway’s natural beauty.