July 6, 2011
From Michelle Johnson, Director, America's Byways Resource Center
Dear Byway Community:
I am writing you to inform you about a situation which may affect the relationship we have with all of you and our ability to continue to be of service to the byway community. Last month we received notice from the Federal Highway Administration that funds set aside by Congress specifically for the America’s Byways Resource Center will not be distributed to us and instead have already been redistributed to various states. We had anticipated using those funds to continue our work into calendar years 2012 and 2013.
What are the details?
The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 (signed into law in March), included language giving the Secretary of Transportation discretion to redistribute funds allocated to specified projects and programs that were designated in SAFETEA-LU, if the Secretary determines that these programs have received “sufficient funds in fiscal year 2010, or a previous fiscal year, to carry out the purpose for which the project or activity was authorized.” (Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 [Public Law 112-5, Title 1, Section 101(d) as it amends Public Law 111-147, Title IV, Section 411(d)])
The Secretary of Transportation has determined that the America’s Byways Resource Center, along with several other programs, has been sufficiently funded. Those funds originally allocated to the America’s Byways Resource Center have already been redistributed.
What does this mean?
For the America’s Byways Resource Center, this means that no additional FHWA funding will be provided to operate the Resource Center in calendar year 2012. The Resource Center is funded at 100% by federal funds from FHWA.
What is the relationship between the Resource Center and FHWA?
The Resource Center is a division of the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission (www.ardc.org), a regional planning agency in Northeastern Minnesota. ARDC has a Cooperative Agreement with FHWA to operate the Resource Center for the benefit of the National Scenic Byways Program. The Cooperative Agreement allows ARDC to be reimbursed for all operating expenses of the Resource Center and currently expires on December 30, 2011. All funds currently obligated to ARDC remain intact and will allow the Resource Center to operate through the end of the current agreement period.
What about services from the Resource Center?
The Resource Center is committed to continuing the same high level of quality technical services and products. We are looking forward to the 2011 National Scenic Byways Conference as an opportunity to bring the byway community together for quality discussions, training and networking. We are committed to providing information (Vistas), resources (the Journal for America’s Byways, Economic Impact Tool, Byways 101), and training (webinars, onsite trainings, Byways Program Coordinator Training). Byways, states and tribes will continue to receive technical services provided directly from our Byways Specialists and Tribal Liaison. And as always, our website will have up-to-date information and resources available to the entire byway community.
What are we doing to sustain the Resource Center into the future?
The America’s Byways Resource Center is developing several strategies including a review of our current work plan and focusing on priorities that best serve the byway community. Upon completion of a revised work plan, we will request additional time to complete our work; unfortunately, the additional time may only extend our work a short time into calendar year 2012, because any extension can only make use of the FHWA funds that are already obligated, but not yet spent. We have invited our Advisory Committee to assist us in our work planning effort.
Many of you have faced similar situations in managing your byway organization. As your resource, we have provided you with fact sheets, workshops, facilitated sessions and advice. We must use our best strategic thinking to manage our own agreement with FHWA in order to maintain the high quality products and services that the Resource Center delivers to you.
As with any organization making use of federal funds, Resource Center staff are not allowed to lobby or ask others to lobby on our behalf. Our efforts are focused on providing the best products and services to you, the byway community, as well as meeting the requirements of the Cooperative Agreement with FHWA. Our parent agency, ARDC, is committed to our success and future and is supporting us by developing strategies which could include other sources of operating funds.
Planning for the future is difficult given all of the uncertainties. We look forward to national discussions on the future of transportation including the reauthorization of the National Scenic Byway Program. We believe that a strong and vibrant Resource Center is an integral part of the byway program.
We are grateful to your past support and especially thankful for our Advisory Committee for their time and efforts in providing advice and direction during this critical time. We will continue to keep you informed regarding our situation.
On behalf of the entire staff at the America’s Byways Resource Center,
America's Byways Resource Center
394 Lake Avenue South, Suite 600, Duluth, MN 55802