Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image

Cultural FAQ's & Regulatory Requirements
Why we are here?
Three federal laws require the evaluation of effects from federally-funded transportation projects on historic properties which are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The National Environmental Policy Act encourages the preservation of significant historic and cultural resources, and requires the preparation of publicly-available documents which inform and allow for public input on cultural resource and other environmental issues. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires the identification of significant historic properties within the project area, and requires the preparation of documentation which details the effects of the project on historic properties which have been determined eligible for, or listed on the NRHP. Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act requires that the agency (ODOT) demonstrate that there is no "prudent or feasible" alternative to a proposed effect or use of a National Register-eligible resource.

What do we do?
The ODOT Cultural Resources staff identifies and evaluates historic resources along highway projects to determine potential eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places. We examine the proposed project effects on those resources, and work with designers to evaluate possible alternatives which would avoid or minimize effects to the historic properties. We advise and coordinate with project teams on cultural resource issues, and when project effects cannot be avoided, we prepare requests for Determination of Eligibility (DOE), Cultural Reports, Section 106 Finding of Effect reports, Section 4(f) documents, and Memoranda of Agreement (MOA). We coordinate directly with the two regulatory agencies, the State Historic Preservation Office and FHWA. The cultural staff also reviews all findings, recommendations, and documents prepared by consultant forces prior to distribution to the regulatory agencies.

What historic resource types need to be evaluated?
Historic resource types include but are not limited to everything in the built environment (man-made) that is 50 years old or older. This wide range of potentially significant resources includes everything from an ornate Victorian-era mansion to a 1950 ranch-style residence, from a cast-iron front commercial building to a quonset hut, from old barns to a 1940s trailer park, or from a small pony truss to the McCullough Bridge across Coos Bay. The most common historic resource types affected by transportation projects are buildings and bridges. In addition to evaluating potential effects on houses, barns, and commercial buildings, old auto garages, lumber mill/company buildings, schools and community stores, train depots, and historic bridges, the ODOT Cultural Resources staff examines many other types of potentially significant resources, such as canal systems, historic markers, transportation-related masonry features like rockwalls, culverts, and retaining walls, and even historic trees. We also consider whether a road itself might be considered significant as a historic transportation corridor or linear resource, such as the Historic Columbia River Highway. We evaluate potential historic residential and commercial districts. Districts can include some properties that would not be eligible on their own but contribute to the look, feel or period of significance of an area with a high concentration of historic buildings with good integrity. The condition of a resource is not as significant as its original integrity of function and design.

What types of projects involve cultural resources?
Cultural resource issues may arise in any level of project classification – 1 (EIS), 2 (Categorical Exclusion), or 3 (EA), as well as TEA-21 Enhancement and local projects (if they have federal funds or permits). Examples of common Class 2 project effects are: preservation or overlays that involve a sidewalk redesign, intersection improvements that require minor strips of R/W from historic properties, and all manner of bridge repair and rehabilitation efforts. Any use of a property that may be eligible for the NRHP must involve a cultural resources specialist.

1.      Federal laws require that all federally funded transportation projects be evaluated to identify any historic resources that may be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. This can include historic districts, buildings, structures, objects and sites, and is not limited to resources that have already been identified in surveys, the National Register, or Statewide Goal 5 resources. A cultural resources professional should evaluate all historic resources that are 50 years old or older to identify historic resources for further investigation.
2.      If potentially eligible historic resources are identified, the project design must be evaluated to determine if there will be any effects to the historic resources.
3.      If significant historic resources are affected, design alternatives that would avoid or minimize the effects must be considered by the design team.
4.      If historic resources are to be impacted by a transportation project (including displacement, right-of-way acquisition, street enhancements such as curb extensions, bike paths, and intersection improvement), determinations of eligibility (DOE) for the National Register must be prepared for the historic resources. The DOE is a brief report with a physical description, historic significance, boundaries, map, and photographs that is submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for concurrence.
5.      If there is going to be an effect to a historic resource determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, a Finding of Effect report on the historic resource must be prepared (Section 106 report). Any alteration within the boundaries of the resource must be evaluated, including effects to structures, streets, sidewalks, trees, rockwork, fences, and landscaping. An alteration to any feature that contributes to the eligibility of the property can be considered an effect to the historic property under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). ODOT cultural resources staff and SHPO must coordinate and concur on the level of effect. Effect levels under Section 106 include: "no effect," "no adverse effect," and "adverse effect."
6.      If the level of effect is determined to be "no adverse" or "adverse" under Section 106, (i.e., alters a characteristic which contributes to the eligibility of the historic resource for the National Register) it triggers Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act. Section 4(f) of the DOT Act requires the evaluation of alternatives, which would avoid effects to the resource. If there is an available alternative that avoids effects to the resource, is both prudent and feasible, and solves the transportation problem, Section 4(f) requires the selection of that alternative. If no avoidance alternatives are available, the design of the project must incorporate all possible means to minimize the effects to the resource. The analysis of project alternatives must be presented to FHWA in a formal Section 4(f) evaluation report.
7.      If the project is considered "adverse," Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires mitigation efforts that would minimize harm, or photographic recordation of the historic resource if it is to be altered or destroyed. Archival photographs taken by a professional photographer using the Historic American Building Survey standards (HABS) are usually required. The mitigation efforts are coordinated between ODOT and the SHPO, and are formalized in a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), which must be signed by the SHPO, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation (ACHP), ODOT, and a local jurisdiction if one is involved in the project funding.
8.      The above reports (DOE, Section 106 Finding of Effect, Section 4(f) evaluation, MOA and HABS recordation), plus the coordination with the appropriate agencies (ODOT, SHPO, FHWA, ACHP, and local jurisdiction), normally requires several months (up to six) of preparation and must involve qualified cultural professionals who have experience with the regulatory laws. Consultants must coordinate with ODOT Cultural Resources Specialist on all phases of work before contacting the SHPO. All regulatory documents and reports must be transmitted under ODOT letterhead.
9.      If the process and reports required by the laws are not completed correctly, FHWA will not allocate funds for the project. Inadequate or untimely coordination of cultural resource issues can cause a project to be jeopardized and/or canceled.

Further information can be obtained by contacting James Norman or Alex McMurry via the email addresses below.