In 2001 the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the organization of the nation's 50 state transportation departments selected the Lake Champlain Byways Project (predecessor to Lakes to Locks Passage) as one of eight top byway projects in the nation.
The award stemed from AASHTO's The Road Beckons: Best Practices for Byways Competition, an event organized to recognize efforts to promote tourism, environmental enhancement, and development in scenic locations across the United States. AASHTO sponsored this first-of-its-kind competition in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration and the America's Byways Resource Center. Forty-one applications from twenty-one states were submitted for consideration. An expert review panel selected by AASHTO selected the top eight byway projects. AASHTO showcased the Lake Champlain Byways Project in a publication titled The Road Beckons: Best Practices for Byways.
The project was organized in 1997 to facilitate the planning of a 250-mile bi-state route that surrounds Lake Champlain, the sixth largest fresh-water lake in the United States. The combined collaborative agencies developed a Corridor Management Plan which focused on establishing a multi-modal byway that would include not only designated state highways, but also a series of bikeways, trails, walkways and waterways all intertwined within the 250-mile byway radius.
Unlike most byway projects undertaken in the United States, the Lake Champlain Byways project does not include regulatory control of private lands or a centralized planning structure. Each county involved in the Byway project established its own Local Advisory Committee for the purpose of determining its own ideas and vision for the Byway. This grassroots approach encouraged a great deal of public participation and interest.
- Lake Champlain Bikeways - A network of routes for bicyclists. The principal route, known as the Champlain Bikeway circles Lake Champlain. Bikers can access any number of intersecting bikeways that provide access to small communities and roadways in the region.
- Lake Champlain Walkways - A network of trails and roadways connecting regional communities and are easily accessible and safe for pedestrians.
- Lake Champlain Waterways - As with Bikeways and Walkways, it is a series of designated routes for boaters that connect the lakeshore to the lake's streams and rivers up to the nearest non-navigable point.