Dear Answer Man, I was driving to Decorah on U.S. 52 last week and noticed that the road is called the Amish Byway through the Harmony area. I know there are a lot of Amish people in that area, but does the state get more money for road improvements for calling it an Amish byway? — Friend of Eli
The 20-mile stretch of U.S. 52 from Preston to Prosper is called the Amish Buggy Byway and yes, it has somewhat wider shoulders for buggy use. According to the Harmony Area Chamber of Commerce, about 100 Amish families live in the Harmony-Canton area. That doesn't seem like a lot, but they have an outsized impact on culture and traffic in that area, and it's easy to say with no disrespect that the Amish have generated a lot of business for non-Amish families as well.
The road is marked as a byway from Minnesota Highway 16 near Preston to Minnesota Highway 44 at Prosper, just north of the Iowa line. The Legislature created it in 1996, with local communities paying for the road signs. As far as I can tell, the designation didn't come with any special funding to accommodate Amish travelers, though the highway was clearly made buggy-friendly, which is only right.
There are other byways in the bluff country area. They include the Shooting Star Scenic Byway, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway, the Apple Blossom Scenic Byway and the Historic Bluff Country National Scenic Byway, which is Minnesota Highway 16. That national designation was approved five years ago by the U.S. Transportation Department, and most people in those towns would say it has been good for business.