The ferry system has been a "Scenic Byway" under the program since 1997.
To be designated as a National Scenic Byway, a road must possess at least one of the six intrinsic qualities (historic, cultural, natural, scenic, recreational, archeological). The features contributing to the distinctive characteristics of the corridor's intrinsic qualities mustpossess regional significance.
Numerous highways, or portions of highways, throughout the state are recognized as Scenic Byways, including portions of the Richardson,Glenn, Parks, Haines, Steese, Sterling, Taylor and Dalton Highways, as well as the Alaska Railroad.
To receive the more prestigious All-American Road designation, a road must possess multiple intrinsic qualities that are nationally significant, and contain one-of-a-kind features that do not exist elsewhere. The road must also be considered a "destination unto itself."
That is, the road must provide an exceptional traveling experience so recognized by travelers that the primary reason for their trip would be to drive along the Byway.
The Alaska Marine Highway System is one of seven routes that to be designated as All-American Roads at today's event, bringing the total nationwide to 27.
"With 3,500 nautical miles of spectacular scenery, the Alaska Marine Highway is the longest byway in the U.S. and the only maritime 'road' in the national highway system," said Governor Frank H. Murkowski. "It is totally fitting for it to be recognized as an All-American Road, even though some of the scenery is Canadian."
"The recognition by USDOT that the Alaska Marine Highway System is a destination unto itself, and that travelers from around the world come to Alaska specifically to ride on and enjoy our ferries is a welcome honor," said Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Mike Barton. "
The All-American Road designation provides a higher level of promotion for the ferry system in nationwide publications and funding for the community groups in coastal Alaska whose interest is in marketing the system's attributes."
The designation will bring national and international exposure to the already popular ferry system. The Federal Highway Administration (FWHA) will now promote the AMHS through its America's byways maps and other public and private cooperative projects. The designation also increases the Highway's eligibility for federal grants.
"We are thrilled to receive this designation, not only for the ferry system, but for Alaska," said Robin Taylor, DOT&PF deputy commissioner for marine transportation. "This will enable us to continue enhancing the services we provide to Alaskans. And it lets potential visitors know that this is one of the most unique and beautiful ways to enjoy our state."
The Alaska Marine Highway System has 11 vessels serving 33 communities along a route of 3,500 miles from Bellingham, WA to the Aleutian Chain.