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Development of a National to State Road Historic Context for the Identification and Evaluation of Historic Roads Subject to Section 106 Consultation


Many state DOTs struggle with identifying “historic roads”, properties that would be considered eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and afforded Section 106 consideration in transportation project development. The problem exists, in part, from a lack of consistent methodology for defining historic roads and the wide-ranging views of each State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) on what constitutes an acceptable historic context for such decision-making.

This research would establish a national-level historic context for historic roads that each state DOT could use to develop state-specific historic context, ultimately used by each state DOT in Section 106 consultation with its respective SHPO.


This research will consist of a multi-disciplinary approach to building a national-level historic context for historic roads that will then be used to build state-level historic contexts. The historic roadway lies as the base of this effort, the point from which associated resources and districts derive their importance. The roadway must have integrity of its essential features and convey its historic function for the roadway or associated resource to have eligibility.

Using economy of scale, the developed historic context for historic roads will cover the period from 1607 to 1970 using a team consisting of archaeologists, architectural historians, historians and engineers. The research will cover the national-level history of roads and road construction from 1607 to 1970, a context that then would be used to guide identification, evaluation and assessment of integrity at the state level. The research will address the question of what makes a road eligible for listing in the NRHP and how and under what conditions does the physical road bed contribute to that finding. The research will review available state-level historic contexts that have been and are being developed, as identified by NCHRP 25-25, Task 97 (below) to inform the content of a national-level context. The research will also review available Multiple Property Documentation Forms that deal primarily with historic roads. A methodology will then be laid out, so this national-level history and context can be used to build a state-level history and context. Two states will be used as examples of how the national-level context can be used to build or modify state-level contexts.

Major tasks include:

· Developing a national history of roads and road construction from 1607-1970.

· Reviewing and synthesizing all available state-level historic contexts for historic roads

· Reviewing and synthesizing all available program guidance on the evaluation of roads from the National Register of Historic Places

· Reviewing and synthesizing the historic context and integrity factors considered for all roads presently listed in the NRHP

· Defining thresholds for NRHP evaluation and thresholds of integrity

· Developing a model, national-level historic context and methodology for evaluating the significance of historic roads

· Consultation support for coordination of research findings with the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), especially concerning recommended methodology for determination of historic context, eligibility and integrity.[CC2]

The model and methodology will be tested by two state DOTs and their SHPO partners to illustrate how the national context could be implemented by other state DOTs. The final product will be published as a research bulletin with recommendations for implementation.


Many State DOTs, acting on behalf of the FHWA, are unnecessarily spending significant amounts of money and slowing down project delivery having to consult, repetitively, on road contexts and determinations of eligibility. The State DOTs can achieve a reasonable and good faith effort by “standardizing” the national-level context and giving methodological guidance on how the state-level can be built. A national-level context, evaluation and assessment of integrity methodology would speed consultation on road properties and reduce those costs. By standardizing road consultation reviews, it will allow the cultural resources professionals to focus on the associated properties to the roadbed.

Related Research:

NCHRP 25/25 Task 97: Historic Roads: A Synthesis of Identification and Evaluation Practices (https://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=3972)


The primary users of the research will be the environmental and cultural resources programs of state DOTs, typically as a tool to expedite Section 106 consultation with their respective SHPOs. The research will be implemented as a structured methodology for determining if a road should be considered an historic property, eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and afforded consideration in the Section 106 process.

Sponsoring Committee:AME60, Historic and Archeological Preservation in Transportation
Research Period:Longer than 36 months
RNS Developer:C. Cliff Creger, Antony Opperman
Date Posted:01/09/2020
Date Modified:01/23/2020
Index Terms:Historic preservation, Historic sites, Roads,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Administration and Management

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