Historic Context

History permeates our landscapes and communities.

How to incorporate historic qualities, elements and features begins with understanding their significance today.

History permeates our landscapes and communities.

How to incorporate historic qualities, elements and features begins with understanding their significance today.

  • "Historic quality encompasses legacies of the past that are distinctly associated with physical elements of the landscape, whether natural or man made, that are of such historic significance that they educate the viewer and stir an appreciation of the past;
  • Historic elements reflect the actions of people and may include buildings, settlement patterns, and other examples of human activity;
  • Historic features can be inventoried, mapped, and interpreted. They possess integrity of location, design, setting, material, workmanship, feeling and association."

Info tab Icon -- Federal Highway Administration
Byway Beginnings: Understanding, Inventorying, and Evaluating a Byway's Intrinsic Qualities
FHWA Policy 5.18.95

"Transportation officials are required to make a good faith effort to identify historic properties that may be affected by a transportation project and gather sufficient information to evaluate the eligibility of these properties for the National Register. The primary provisions related to historic preservation for transportation projects are contained in the Section 106 process and Section 4(f) of the DOT Act."

Info tab Icon -- American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officals
Center for Transportation Excellence-Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources

Excerpt IconExcerpt Historic Roads Defined
In general, historic roads are roads that, through design, experience, or association, have contributed to our culture in a meaningful way. The type of road, its history, and current condition will determine the most appropriate action for preservation. The National Task Force for Historic Roads (NTFHR) has identified three types of historic roads: Aesthetic Routes, Engineered Routes, and Cultural Routes. more...
from  Saving Historic Roads: Design & Policy Guidelines
Excerpt IconExcerpt Evaluating Your Historic Road
This list of questions will help you define your historic road and the issues facing it. more...
from  Saving Historic Roads: Design & Policy Guidelines
Article Icon Section 4(f)
23 U.S.C. Section 138 ("Section 4(f)") It is hereby declared to be the national policy that special effort should be made to preserve the natural beauty of the countryside and public park and recreation lands, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites.
-- 23 U.S.C. Section 138 ("Section 4(f)")
Article Icon Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act
National Historic Preservation Act, Section 106, Part. 800.1 (a): Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires Federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties and afford the Council a reasonable opportunity to comment on such undertakings...
from National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (As amended through 2000)
Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Legal Remedies
Planners and preservationists have long been aware of the impact of highway development on natural and historic resources. These impacts, as we now know, go beyond the actual footprint of the roadway and have the potential to radically change the face of a landscape by inducing or accelerating changes in land use patterns that can further exacerbate impacts on historic properties. This article will focus on the legal tools for protecting historic sites from highway projects that are subsidized to some extent by federal funds.
-- Andrea C. Ferster, Elizabeth S. Merritt
Book Icon Book Saving Historic Roads: Design & Policy Guidelines
In Saving Historic Roads, Paul Daniel Marriott examines the complex issues surrounding historic roads and provides design and policy guidelines for adaption contemporary transportation laws and engineering practices to these resources.
--  National Trust for Historic Preservation
Book Icon Book From Milestones to Mile-Markers: Understanding Historic Roads
This publication provides information to help local byway organizations understand and manage a scenic byway with historic intrinsic qualities and resources and shows how to identify an historic road, define the elements that make it historic and determine the appropriate course of action.
--  Paul Daniel Marriott
National Trust for Historic Preservation
America's Byways Resrouce Center

Merritt Parkway: Greenwich, Connecticut
Greenwich, CT
Much has been written and reported about the safety improvements and landscape restoration of the Merritt Parkway which started in the 1990s in Greenwich, Connecticut, a unique community that shaped the approach that was ultimately taken to improve this roadway. The community's influence started long before any formal design process was undertaken, and in fact, and was instrumental in motivating the context sensitive design approach (although not called such at the time). Overall this project can be considered an excellent example of how a road represents so much more to a community than simply a transportation conduit. The future of this roadway was community driven and while the DOT provided the leadership and expertise to accomplish the improvements, their use of other professionals, such as landscape architects and historians, improved the final result. This case study focuses on the initial context sensitive design process which preceded the first improvements to the highway and revitalization of the setting.
Aesthetic Guardrail Design, SR-20 - Ducken Road to Rosario
The purpose of this project is to improve safety and reduce accident frequency and severity. Within this section of SR-20, a primary issue is upgrading it to bike touring standards.
Historic Columbia River Parkway
Columbia River Gorge, OR
The first paved highway in the northwestern United States, the Columbia River Highway was conceived, designed, and constructed as both a scenic attraction and as a means of facilitating economic development along the Columbia River corridor between the Pacific Ocean and the areas to the east of the Cascade Mountains. The history of the development, decline, and continuing rebirth of the Columbia River Highway is particularly instructive to the highway engineering community as we approach the beginning of a new century and a future of increasing reliance on the rehabilitation and restoration of existing infrastructure instead of the construction of new highways. This study also illustrates the manner in which state and local governments can preserve and enhance existing highways that possess unique scenic and historic qualities within the framework of modern design criteria.
Smiths Creek Covered Bridge - Delaware
Bridge 9 (Smiths Bridge) is a one-lane wide, three-span steel beam bridge with timber deck and railing with a superstructure dating from 1962 when it was rebuilt following a fire. The original superstructure was a single-span timber covered bridge constructed in 1839. The substructure consists of stone abutments dating back to the original 1839 bridge and stone faced concrete piers that were constructed in the1950's when steel beams were added for support. The substructure is considered to be a contributing element to the historic district in which the bridge lies. The latest condition evaluation reports that the bridge deck is in poor condition, with the superstructure and substructure in fair condition. Based on the condition of the bridge, the scope of work was determined to include replacement of the superstructure and rehabilitation of the substructure.

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