Virginia Byway - Frequently Asked Questions

Adventure beckons on the roads and highways designated as Virginia Byways.

More than mere pavement between points A and B, a Virginia Byway offers travelers a side of the commonwealth that is uncommon and enlightening.

Each byway leads to scenes of natural beauty and places of historical and social significance.

Currently, there are nearly 3,000 miles of roads designated as Virginia Byways, yet several hundred more miles of commonwealth roadway could qualify.

To help attract visitors and support economic development through tourism, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB), encourage local governments to nominate roads for Virginia Byway designation.

What’s the purpose of the Virginia Byway program?

The program identifies road corridors containing aesthetic or cultural value near areas of historical, natural or recreational significance.

By designating certain roads as Virginia Byways, widely distributing "A Map of Scenic Roads in Virginia," and promoting the Virginia Scenic Roads Web site, the program encourages travel to interesting destinations and away from high-traffic corridors.

Byways also stimulate local economies by attracting visitors to lesser-known destinations. One study showed visitors spent $1.8 billion in counties adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina. This supported nearly 75,000 jobs and generated more than $147 million in tax revenues in the region.

What makes a Virginia Byway different from other roads?

People like to explore. The 2000 Virginia Outdoors Survey, conducted by Virginia's DCR, finds that driving for pleasure is the second most popular outdoor activity, with more than 62 percent of the population participating.

By following the highlighted byways on the state transportation map, the scenic roads map and the scenic roads Web site, visitors are directed to places where they can tour wineries, explore Civil War battle sites and historical attractions, view beautiful scenery and enjoy recreational resources.

Once designated, a byway becomes part of the coordinated promotional strategy for Virginia tourism.

What are other important considerations regarding Virginia Byway status?

  • Virginia Byway designation gives localities the opportunity to participate in the National Scenic Byway Program.
  • It might limit placement of outdoor advertising signs.
  • It does not affect land use controls.
  • It does not limit road improvements.

What is a Virginia Byway?

Per Virginia Code, "Virginia Byway" means those highways designated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) pursuant to articles §33.2-400 and §33.2-405 through §33.2-408

The Virginia Outdoors Plan, from DCR, identifies roads that have been considered as having intrinsic qualities of Virginia Byways for many years. 

In addition, there are other roads that meet the criteria for designation.

What are the criteria?

To be considered, a segment of road must substantially meet the following criteria:

  • The route provides important scenic values and experiences.
  • There is a diversity of experiences, as in transition from one landscape scene to another.
  • The route links together or provides access to scenic, historic, recreational, cultural, natural and archeological elements.
  • The route bypasses major roads or provides opportunities to leave high-speed routes for variety and leisure in motoring. Landscape control or management along the route is feasible.
  • The route allows for additional features that will enhance the motorist’s experience and improve safety.
  • Local government(s) has/have initiated zoning or other land-use controls, so as to reasonably protect the aesthetic and cultural value of the highway.

What are the steps to designation?

1. Anyone can request byway designation, but local government(s) must adopt a resolution of support.

2. Upon receipt of a request and historical documentation from an interested party/local government, VDOT and DCR collect information on local zoning laws, traffic volumes and accident reports before evaluating the roads according to the criteria.

3. Based on a joint review according to the criteria, the DCR director recommends qualifying roads for consideration by the CTB.

4. Before the CTB acts, VDOT offers the local government the opportunity to hold a public hearing. If a public hearing is requested, VDOT’s Local Assistance Division and DCR will provide assistance.

5. After the public hearing, or if no hearing was requested, the CTB officially designates the byway(s) at their next scheduled meeting. Subsequently, signs are posted, and changes are made to the appropriate maps.

How can I get more information about the Virginia Byway program?

Contact Carolyn France, 804-786-2586

For additional copies of this brochure or others in the VDOT Answers Your Questions series, please contact:

Virginia Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
1401 E. Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23219


Page last modified: Aug. 31, 2018