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Frequently Asked Questions

Historic Roads

What highways in Arizona are considered historic roads?

Currently, all state and U.S. highways designated as Arizona state highways between 1912 and 1955 are considered historic roads. As a group, they are considered the Historic State Highway System (HSHS), which is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The beginning date, 1912, signifies the year when Arizona became the 48th U.S. state. The end date, 1955, is the year prior to the signing of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which resulted in the construction of the modern interstate highway system.

The three dozen or so roads listed on the Historic Highways page are historic roads within Arizona's HSHS.

Why are these roads important

Individually and as a group, the history of these early highways is closely linked to the history and growth of Arizona as a special place. Historic highways are fascinating sources of information about indigenous communities and nonnative travelers and settlers who came to Arizona as early as the 16th century.

Historic highways can tell us a story about where people explored, lived, worked and played and when different portions of the state were developed. A study of roads can also tell us why highways occur in different locations. In some cases, historic highways followed the route of ancient American Indian trails and 19th-century equestrian trails and wagon roads. In other cases, 20th-century engineers constructed new routes and roads to facilitate the development of economic resources, such as mines or hydroelectric dams, and link newly established human settlements with existing roads and communities.

Road histories can also tell us stories about who or what was responsible for their construction and demise. Some well-traveled highways, such as US 66 or US 80, created opportunities to begin new businesses and adjacent communities. When alignments changed along these same highways, however, many of the roadside enterprises and associated settlements withered for lack of traffic and income.

In short, creating and sharing stories about Arizona's historic roads can tell us much about the distribution of Arizona's natural resources and its history of human settlement and land use.

Are historic roads protected?

Yes and no. Historic roads are no more protected than any other historic property. When state or federal agencies plan a project that may affect a particular historic highway, the agency is legally required to consider how its proposed actions may impact the road, both as a physical entity within a particular landscape and as a source of historic information.

Where can I learn more about Arizona's historic highways?

ADOT maintains this site to discuss historic highways. Of course, reading articles published in ADOT's world-famous Arizona Highways magazine is a wonderful way to learn more about Arizona from the perspective of travel along Arizona's many historic and modern highways.

Where can I purchase maps that show Arizona's historic highways?

Maps can be purchased from Major Libraries and Archives in Arizona.

Scenic Roads

Can I designate a state scenic road that is not on the ADOT highway system?

Yes. The ADOT Scenic Roads program is not limited to its own highways. Any road or street that meets the criteria for parkways, historic roads or scenic roads is eligible for designation.

Could a scenic road be delisted because of developers building along the road?

Yes. The PHSRAC could recommend delisting if the qualities of the scenic road were degraded because of development. The State Transportation Board would make the final decision.

Who pays for the required studies prior to designation of a state scenic road?

Historically, ADOT has funded studies for the PHSRAC upon receiving an official letter requesting designation. For any future and proposed scenic road nominations, contact ADOT (see below) for funding availability.

Why are we doing a CMP?

The CMP is a grassroots-level participation project in which local desires and issues are documented to serve as a planning guide for the nationally designated byway.

Who pays for the development of the CMP?

The FHWA has historically funded 80 percent of the costs as part of a discretionary grant. ADOT has historically funded the remaining 20 percent of the costs. For any future and proposed byway designations, contact the FHWA (see below) for funding availability.

If we complete the CMP, does that mean we have to nominate the route for national designation?

The question will be addressed in the CMP. It will be a local decision. ADOT policy is to only forward applications for national designation that have consensus. Again, both FHWA and ADOT want this to be a grassroots-level program.

How long does the CMP process take?

It generally takes 18 to 24 months.

What is the difference between a state-designated scenic road and a nationally designated byway?

A state-designated scenic road covers parkways, historic roads and scenic roads. A nationally designated byway covers National Scenic Byways and All-American Roads.

Which is designated first, a state scenic road or a byway?

A roadway, in most cases, must be a state-designated scenic road before it is considered for byway designation.

What do we need to do to nationally designate our road?

To be considered for national designation, three things are needed:

  • ADOT must designate (or have designated) the road as a parkway, historic road or scenic road.
  • You must have a completed CMP.
  • You must have a completed national designation application submitted to FHWA.

What are the benefits of national designation?

Benefits include promotion and preservation of the scenic route. Other benefits may include local economic gain from the distinction of having an officially and nationally designated scenic road.

If I have questions on the state scenic roads program, whom should I contact?

ADOT Scenic Roads Program
Arizona Department of Transportation
1615 W. Jackson St.
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Phone: 602.712.6166
Fax: 602.712.3347

If I have questions on the national byways program, whom should I contact?

Layne Patton
Federal Highway Administration, Arizona Division
4000 N. Central Ave.
Suite 1500
Phoenix, AZ 85012
Phone: 602.382.8974
Fax: 602.382.8998