The Great River Road was developed by the Mississippi River Parkway Commission (MRPC) and is maintained today in Wisconsin by the Department of Transportation and county and local road agencies. The MRPC works with federal, state, and local units of government to sign, promote, and develop highways and amenity projects along the Great River Road.
One of the nation's oldest and longest national scenic by-ways, the Great River Road is a 3,000 mile network of roads extending from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. During the early phases of Great River Road development, the parkway commission played an important role in planning, route designation, and funding.
Today, the MRPC works with state and local agencies to complete Great River Road development plans utilizing transportation enhancement, scenic by-way, and state and local funds. The MRPC facilitates regional studies, reports, and plans to support local, state and national development of theGreat River Road.
The Great River Road as defined in Wisconsin Statute 84.107(1):
Over the years, Great River Road-funded work has included purchases of right-of-way, scenic easements, abandoned railroad lines, boat landings, rest areas, playground equipment, park improvements, surfacing, recycling, reconstruction, shoulder widening and an archeologic study. Source: "Wisconsin Highways 1945-1984" by WisDOT.
WisDOT's excellent book "Wisconsin Highways 1945-1985" includes the following information on this route:
"The Great River Road has been one of Wisconsin's special promotions since the early 1930s. The Road was recognized by legislation in 1938 that established the Mississippi River Parkway Planning Commission. For convenience, the road in Wisconsin was marked on existing state trunk highways with the exception of short distances on some county trunks which were contemplated for eventual development to Great River Road standards."
"The road was planned for both sides of the Mississippi from 'the palms of Louisiana to the pines of Minnesota.' ... Between its inception and a Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973, Wisconsin used only state money to build the first segment on the entire route specifically as Great River Road. The special federal funds became available in 1977. The Federal Highway Acts of 1976 and 1978 continued the categorical funding for the Great River Road at a declining pace until phased out starting in 1983. While Great River Road funds were available, Wisconsin recieved some $21.2 million out of the $251.5 million allocated to the 10 states along the river."
The highway-by-highway routing for the Great River Road:
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