September 1, 2001
Funding for byways in Ohio could face cuts
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — In just the past three years, Ohio has received more than $2 million from the federal government to develop its
scenic byways — state and federally recognized highways that cover areas of historic, cultural and natural interest. Ohio byways
have applied for more than $2 million more to continue the work next year.
However, the earmarking of up to $25 million in federal byways money threatens to deprive Ohio and most other states of funding.
If all the money is diverted to states other than Ohio, proposals that will not stand a chance of getting funding include the
development of gazebo welcome centers along byways in Holmes County, the preservation of farmland along the Ohio & Erie Canal
in Summit County and a statewide byways marketing plan. They are among projects seeking federal money next year.
“We think we have some very quality projects that could receive federal funding and may be wiped out because of earmarking,”
said Paul Staley, Ohio state byways coordinator.
During the past 10 years of the program’s existence, most or all of the federal byways money has been awarded through
competitive grants. The Federal Highway Administration has divvied up the funding — $25 million this year — after reviewing
applications from byways organizations.
That process has worked well, according to Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., a longtime byways supporter. Oberstar “feels the
money so far has been distributed to states and projects on a merit basis,” his spokesman Jim Berard said. “His position is, we
should keep doing things as we have been doing them.”
Ohio byways that have received federal funding in the past include the 110-mile Canal Way, which follows the Ohio & Erie Canal
from Cleveland south to Dover; several byways in Holmes County and the 55-mile long Tappan-Moravian Trail southeast of New
This year, however, the Senate and House passed separate transportation funding bills that earmark byways money to specific
states. Several of these states are home to influential lawmakers on the appropriations committees, including Senate Appropriations
Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, ranking Republican on the committee.
Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition, which opposes earmarking, said the practice “undercuts” the
competitive award of grants.
“It was done in a very smoky-room environment,” he said of the earmarking. “What we’re saying is some of these projects may be
great projects, but they should have to compete with the other 284 projects that have already been filed by states like Ohio and
Crandall, along with the heads of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Scenic America, wrote to Byrd urging him to
eliminate the earmarks.
Before adjourning for the August recess, the Senate earmarked $25 million to just six states — Byrd’s West Virginia, Stevens’
Alaska, Idaho, Washington, New Jersey, and Alabama. That earmark is part of a $28.6 million appropriation. The Senate threw
another $25 million in non-earmarked funds into the byways program, but the survival of that money is uncertain because it was
taken from another account.
Out of its $25.5 million appropriation, the House earmarked $6 million to Idaho, New Mexico, New York, Massachusetts and Indiana.
The House and Senate bills need to be reconciled by a conference committee after lawmakers return to Washington this month. That
means there is still time to remove all or some of the earmarks — or to add more.
Sen. John McCain, a frequent critic of pork-barrel spending, took aim at the earmarks, including those for byways, when
appropriations bills were debated in late July.
“I congratulate the Appropriations Committee,” the Arizona Republican facetiously remarked after saying that transportation
earmarks had swollen to $3 billion from $702 million last year. “In the contract game of pork-barrel spending, some benefit
substantially more than others,” he added.
While many lawmakers and state and local officials declare their principled opposition to earmarks, few seem inclined to wage war
against them. Some fear making enemies out of lawmakers who have directed other earmarked funding to their states. Also, the
funding allocated for byways pales beside the hundreds of millions of dollars that states seek for highways, bridges and other
The state of Ohio opposes earmarking of byways funds, but is not fighting the earmarking, Staley said. Lobbyists for Ohio have
communicated the state’s position to “different individuals” in Washington, he added.
While Oberstar hopes to persuade members of the appropriations committees to remove the earmarks, “It’s not going to be easy,”
his spokesman Berard said.
Rep. Thomas E. Petri, R-Wis., another supporter of the program, is “concerned” about the earmarking, his chief of staff Debbie
Gebhardt said. Still, “It’s very hard for us to change it,” she added.
Among Ohio lawmakers who sit on appropriations committees, Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, said he will try to
influence the process to benefit Ohio. “I hope they maintain the money not only for scenic byways, but for trails,” he said.
Regula added that the House Appropriations Committee “has got a responsibility to take care of the House point of view, which
doesn’t necessarily include a lot of money for West Virginia,” as earmarked in the Senate bill.
One observer said Byrd himself may remove the earmarks, at least those for West Virginia, from his own bill in conference
committee. Responding to McCain’s attack on pork, he told the Arizona senator: “All highways in West Virginia are scenic, all
highways. They are all scenic, and the money in this bill for scenic highways in West Virginia is going to be yielded in conference
with the House.