Scenic Turnouts and Overlooks
The federal Transportation Alternatives (TA) program funds 10 different types of transportation-related activities. Through activity 4, known in law as Construction of turnouts, overlooks, and viewing areas, communities develop the scenic and historic character of highways. These projects make the travel experience educational and attract tourists to local roads. Since the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program began in 1992, approximately 5 percent of available TE/TA funds have been programmed for scenic and historic highway projects.
Working within Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guidelines, each state Department of Transportation (DOT) determines the eligibility of TA projects for funding. Examples of projects that may be considered eligible include:
► Construction of turnouts and overlooks
TA funds may not be used for th
e construction of visitor centers. Additionally, funds cannot be used for marketing or promotion not related to the scenic or historic highway program, nor can t
hey be used for the staffing, operating, or maintenance costs of facilities. Funds apportioned through MAP-21 (effective October 1, 2012) cannot be used for tourist and welcome centers; these projects may still be eligible using
funds apportioned in previous years through SAFETEA-LU.
Examples of Successful Projects
Photo coutesy of Garden Architecture, a Martin Design Company. In 2006, the Hardin County Conservation Board was awarded a Transportation Enhancement project award to build a scenic overlook. The Sac & Fox Recreation area covers 106.2 acres filled with hiking, hunting, wetlands, and wildlife. Within this area is the Sac & Fox Scenic Overlook which provides excellent views of the Iowa River, migrating birds, and is the perfect spot for a picnic. An award of $300,000 was met with a match of $133,900 to fund a roadside overlook. The project was designed by Martin Design and the work was completed by Wicks Construction. The project included the construction of an open air structure, binocular viewers, restrooms, interpretive panels, parking, sidewalks, and a picnic area. The Sac and Fox Overlook area is found 1 mile North of Steamboat Rock and is accessible from county road S56.
Sac & Fox Scenic Overlook (Iowa)
Visit http://trade.railstotrails.org/project_examples for additional project examples.
Projects that use TA funds must qualify as one or more of the 10 designated activities and be related to surface transportation in order to meet basic federal eligibility requirements.
Important steps to consider when proceeding with a project in this category:
► Sponsors must comply with federal regulations involving property acquisitions contained in the The Uniform Act. Streamlining measures such as voluntary transaction procedures and exemptions for conservation organizations can make this process easier for TA projects. Project sponsors should discuss the relevance of the Uniform Act with their FHWA division and state DOT.
► Private sponsors should have a public co-sponsor to insure the continued responsibility on the part of the public agency for the project. Sponsors should plan for the future use and maintenance of the property in their proposal.
► A legal document developed in conjunction with the state FHWA division office should capture the protection of property rights for the use of a facility for a specific time period.
► The period of public access to the property should be commensurate with the expenditure of TA funds.
Visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/guidance/guidetap.cfm for a full copy of the FHWA TA Guidance.
Most states require TA project sponsors to provide at least 20 percent of project costs, also referred to as matching funds. In many states, the value of donated property, materials and services, the labor of state and local government employees, and the costs of preliminary engineering may count towards the matching requirement. Federal, non-DOT funds can often be used as matching funds. Check with your state TA manager whether these innovative financing options are available in your state. Additional funds for this activity may come from state agencies, local governments, foundations, nonprofit organizations, or other federal agencies.
Visit http://trade.railstotrails.org/funding_sources for more suggestions on potential funding sources.
► FHWA Historic Preservation and Archaeology Program: Offers resources related to historic preservation and historic roads: http://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/histpres/index.asp.
► Scenic America: http://www.scenic.org/ or 202-463-1294
► Advisory Council on Historic Preservation: http://www.achp.gov or 202-517-0200
► Historic Roads: http://www.historicroads.org/
To Get Started
Inquiries about the TA application process should be directed to the TA manager at your state DOT.
Visit http://trade.railstotrails.org/contact for TA manager contact information.