S. 349 would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to solicit nominations of roads for the National Scenic Byways Program. DOT is authorized to designate scenic byways that are nominated by states, Indian tribes, and federal land management agencies and that meet certain other qualifications. States, tribes, and land management agencies that control such roads have been eligible to receive grants and technical assistance for maintenance and improvement projects. In the past, contract authority (a form of mandatory budget authority) was provided to fund such activities, but no grants have been made since 2012 and that authority expired in 2013.
Under the bill, DOT would be required to post the request for nominations on its website and to designate new scenic byways within one year. The bill would not authorize appropriations for this program and accordingly CBO does not estimate any increased spending for grants or technical assistance.
Using data from DOT about the number of designations before 2009 (the most recent year in which designations were made) and information from a recent survey of likely applicants, CBO estimates that DOT would receive roughly 50 nominations and would need the equivalent of one to two full-time staff for up to a year to assess those nominations. As a result, CBO estimates, implementing the bill would cost less than $500,000 over the 2019-2024 period; any spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.