Federal Highway Administration officials recognized the road between La Verkin and Zion National Park as the sixth National Scenic Byway in Utah on Feb. 16.
SR-9, also known as the Zion Scenic Byway, is the only Utah road to receive a national designation this year after previously holding the designation of a state scenic byway since 1990.
The 54-mile route runs from I-15 nine miles east of St. George to the Hwy 89 junction at Mt. Carmel and passes many famous landmarks of Zion National Park.
The road travels alongside the Virgin River and also passes several culturally significant areas including the Grafton ghost town, historic cemeteries and the well-preserved homes of early settlers.
The NSB designations are part of the 1991 National Scenic Byways Program that, according to the FHA press release, “is a collaborative effort to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States.”
Roads included into this program must display one or more archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.
The U.S. transportation secretary received 63 nominations for roads to be included in the NSBP in response to the “Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act of 2019.”
The nominated routes underwent review by “subject matter experts” who analyzed the roads for historic preservation, design, cultural resources, visual impacts, tourism and economic development, highway safety, federal lands, and Native American history and culture.
Upon completion of the review, 49 of the routes across 28 states received a designation within the America’s Byways collection of roads. Of these, 15 were designated as All-American Roads and 34 were designated as National Scenic Byways.
“Through their many unique qualities, each of these new additions to the National Scenic Byways program helps America’s roads tell our national story,” said FHWA Executive Director Tom Everett.
The new designations will increase federal funding for the roadways as well as increase tourism and spending.
“Scenic roads have always been popular with travelers, and support a wide array of area businesses too,” Everett added. “Whether hotels, eateries or gas stations, Scenic Byways and All-American Roads support the nation’s small business community and are economic drivers for entire regions.”
A complete list of the NSB and AAR and more information about the NSBP can be found on the National Scenic Byways Foundation website.