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Program Comment for Common Post-1945 Concrete and Steel Bridges
At the request of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) has issued a Program Comment that will eliminate individual historic review requirements under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act for common post-1945 concrete and steel bridges and culverts. The intent of Program Comment is to ensure that more unique historic bridges receive the attention they deserve while the process is substantially streamlined for common, “cookie-cutter” bridges that are unlikely to be significant for preservation in place. These bridges were constructed in vast numbers after World War II using standardized plans. Although there has been little public interest in the preservation of these common bridges and culverts, FHWA was required under Section 106, to consider and document the potential historic significance of any bridge approaching 50 years of age that might be affected by FHWA projects. See the end of this section for examples of common bridge types covered by the Program Comment.
This new Program Comment applies to effects of undertakings on certain common concrete and steel bridges lacking distinction, not previously listed or determined eligible for listing on the National Register, and not located in or adjacent to historic districts. It makes no findings regarding the historic significance of the bridges included under its terms, but goes directly to treatment for these types of bridges which in any case are not likely to be preserved in place. The Program Comment also obligates FHWA to carry out certain programmatic mitigation to address the potential loss of some historic bridges under its terms.
The Program Comment is not a waiver for bridge projects. It eliminates case-by-case review for bridges and culverts meeting the criteria, while retaining the requirement for FHWA to consider the effects of its actions on any other historic properties affected by a proposed project. The Program Comment supports the FHWA Administrator's Every Day Counts initiative, as well as the provisions contained within Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) to improve the efficiency of the environmental review process. The FWHA estimates that the action could exempt almost 200,000 bridges and culverts from individual reviews and save taxpayers $78 million over the next 10 years.
The full text of the Program Comment is available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-11-16/pdf/2012-27866.pdf, but it breaks down into several parts with which you should be familiar before utilizing the Program Comment in the course of compliance with Section 106 for your projects.
- The Program Comment applies to specific types of bridges and culverts built after 1945, including various forms of reinforced concrete slab bridges, reinforced concrete beam and girder bridges, steel multi-beam bridges or multi-girder bridges, and culverts and reinforced concrete boxes (Section V).
- The Program Comment does NOT apply to bridges that are already listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or to those located in or adjacent to a historic district (Section IV.A).
- The Program Comment does NOT apply to arch bridges, truss bridges, bridges with movable spans, suspension bridges, cable-stayed bridges, or covered bridges (Section IV.B).
- The Program Comment does NOT apply to bridges identified as having exceptional significance for association with a person or event, being a very early or particularly important example of its type in a State or the nation, having distinctive engineering or architectural features that depart from standard designs, or displaying other elements that were engineered to respond to a unique environmental context and included in a list to be developed by each state Division of FHWA (Section IV.C).
While the Program Comment is available for use by any Federal agency, since FHWA requested it and because the Advisory Council believes FHWA has the unique ability to convene the entities that would have expertise in identifying any exceptional bridges, each state Division of FWHA is required to consult with others to develop the list for that state per Section IV.C. Before the Program Comment may be used for undertakings in a State, the relevant FHWA Division must first develop a list of bridges in that State that are of the types considered common bridges, but that meet the considerations in Section IV.C and would therefore be considered exceptional in some way. Each FHWA Division wishing to apply the Program Comment must organize a meeting of the relevant State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), State DOT, and other interested parties to develop the list of bridges meeting the criteria of Section IV.C. This list is not intended to be exhaustive, but would be informed by input at the meeting. The intent is to provide a means to exclude obviously exceptional bridges from falling under the Program Comment.
The Program Comment never envisioned requiring a survey to complete the listing of exceptional bridges; however, if a State has a survey or management plan it should suffice to identify exceptional bridges, if any, and those already listed in or determined eligible for the National Register. For those bridges previously listed or determined eligible under the provisions of an existing Programmatic Agreement (PA), this Program Comment will make little difference except to allow bridges not yet under the terms of the PA to forego evaluation in the future as they approach the age to be considered eligible or as the PA is amended to allow the programmatic mitigation provided with the Program Comment to fulfill any further stipulation for coordination and mitigation.
We are leaving it up to the Divisions, with their State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and SHPOs to come up with a list OR agree that a current inventory or management plan adequately addresses the issue OR agree that there are no exceptional bridges under the Section IV.C criteria. If requested by a State Division, the Office of Project Development and Environmental Review (HEPE) will make a facilitator available to a State to convene the consultation to develop this list, much as we did for the Interstate Highway exemption. There is intentionally a great deal of flexibility for the Divisions and States to go about developing this list as they see fit; however, the list should be finalized by March 31, 2013, and submitted to FHWA's Federal Preservation Officer for posting on the website. The list for a State must be finalized and posted in order for any other agency to apply the Program Comment in a State. We will be convening a webinar on January 24, 2013, to present the full requirements of the Program Comment and to take comments and questions from the Divisions, State DOTs and SHPOs.
On November 2, 2012, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) issued a Program Comment to relieve all Federal agencies from the Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106) requirement to consider the effects of undertakings on certain common bridges and culverts constructed of concrete or steel after 1945 (Program Comment). The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requested the Program Comment and is responsible for implementation of the requirements for its implementation, including programmatic mitigation for the effects of undertakings on post-1945 common bridges.
The intent of Program Comment is to ensure that more unique historic bridges receive the attention they deserve while the Section 106 review process is substantially streamlined for common, “cookie-cutter” bridges that are unlikely to be candidates for preservation in place. These bridges were constructed in vast numbers after World War II using standardized plans. Basic information about America's bridges, including their dates and types of construction, can be found in FHWA's National Bridge Inventory (NBI), a database of all structures carrying or passing over highway traffic. This information, supported by recent bridge inventories or field verification of the NBI data serve to inform Federal agencies of whether a particular bridge is of the type covered by the Program Comment.
Questions and Answers
The following questions and answers were developed to provide FHWA Divisions, state Departments of Transportation, and other Federal agency officials with additional information on the applicability of the Program Comment and the required steps for implementation.
1) What is a Program Comment?
A program comment issued by the ACHP provides an alternative method for Federal agencies to meet their Section 106 obligations. Program comments are one of five program alternatives available under the regulations implementing Section 106 that allow agencies to tailor Section 106 review to meet the needs of the agency. This tool is intended to give the ACHP flexibility to issue comments on a Federal program or class of undertakings in lieu of commenting on such undertakings on a case-by-case basis. Section 800.14(e) of the Section 106 regulations (36 CFR Part 800) sets forth the process for issuing such comments. Since 2002, the ACHP has issued 11 program comments. This is the first Program Comment issued by the ACHP at the request of FHWA.
2) Is the Program Comment a waiver of Section 106 review for projects affecting the common bridge types?
No. The Program Comment is not a waiver from Section 106 review for undertakings that may affect common bridges or other historic properties. Neither is it a waiver from applicable Federal requirements to consult with Indian tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations (NHO) regarding undertakings that may cause effects to historic properties to which a tribe or NHO ascribes traditional cultural and religious significance. Federal agency officials must still complete Section 106 review and consider effects of the undertaking on historic properties other than the common bridge itself. Much like the 2005 exemption from review for the Interstate Highway System, the Program Comment for common Post-1945 bridges relieves Federal agencies from the need, under Section 106 to individually evaluate and consider the effects of undertakings on the bridges described in Section V of the Program Comment (Common Bridges), with the considerations noted in Section IV.
3) Can any Federal agency use the Program Comment?
Yes. The Program Comment applies to certain common bridges regardless of land jurisdiction, except for bridges on Indian tribal lands, and may be used by any Federal agency. However, it can only do so in a state in which the FHWA has completed the list of exceptional bridges required in Section IV.C. Once this list has been completed and filed with FHWA's Federal Preservation Officer, common post-1945 bridges of the types defined in Section V require no further consideration, provided (1) they are not on the FHWA list of bridges of exceptional significance, and (2) prior to implementation of the undertaking, the Federal agency official determines, based on the work of a qualified cultural resource specialist, that the bridge does not meet any of the other considerations under Section IV.A or B. (See Questions 10-17 for further discussion on how the Section IV.C list should be developed.)
Where the state Division of FHWA has not yet developed the Section IV.C list, Federal agencies wishing to apply this Program Comment to undertakings in which FHWA is not the lead agency may contact the FHWA environmental staff at the appropriate state Division Office (www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep/hepdivoff.cfm) so that it can assist in developing the Section IV.C list. In addition, Federal agencies may seek assistance as needed from the FHWA and/or ACHP contacts in Question #19 below.
4) Can a state opt out of the Program Comment?
Yes. FHWA, or another Federal agency within a state, is not required to use this Program Comment. Federal agencies that choose not to use this Program Comment must comply with Section 106 through the process in the Section 106 regulations at 36 CFR 800.3 through 800.6 or another existing program alternative under 36 CFR 800.14. During the comment period, several States indicated that they would prefer to continue managing historic bridges using an existing Historic Bridge Management Plan and Programmatic Agreement (PA). This approach is acceptable.
5) Does the Program Comment supersede or negate National Register eligibility determinations that were previously made either individually or in a statewide survey?
No. If a bridge is listed in or has previously been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or is located adjacent to or within a National Register historic district, the agency may not utilize this Program Comment with regard to that bridge.
6) If a state has already completed an inventory of these types of bridges and determined some to be eligible for the National Register, can it still take advantage of the Program Comment? How?
States may apply the Program Comment to any bridges in the state that have been determined not eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or are not yet evaluated. FHWA and the ACHP will work with States that wish to apply the Program Comment to post-1945 common bridges that were deemed eligible, but are not of exceptional significance as described in Section IV.C of the Program Comment. Existing agreements may be updated to extend the benefit of the Program Comment to certain bridges already determined eligible, but not of exceptional significance, through an amendment of that agreement in consultation with FHWA (or another Federal agency), the State Historic Preservation Officer, and the ACHP. A state may also utilize information from a current survey to develop its Section IV.C list.
7) Can a State Department of Transportation (DOT) use the procedures in a statewide PA for some bridge projects, and the Program Comment for others?
Yes. As mentioned above, a program comment is an alternative that an agency may use to comply with its Section 106 responsibilities for a relevant undertaking. Agencies are free to comply with Section 106 through the process in the Section 106 regulations at 36 CFR 800.3 through 800.6 or another existing program alternative under 36 CFR 800.14 (e.g., an applicable statewide PA) instead.
Note that bridges that are listed in or determined to be eligible for the National Register are not covered by the streamlined procedures in the Program Comment, and therefore an undertaking's effects on them would need to be considered through the other Section 106 options of compliance listed above.
Keep in mind, FHWA and other agencies may apply the Program Comment to common post-1945 concrete and steel bridges that are not yet evaluated for eligibility, provided the Division has completed the requirements of Section IV.C of the Program Comment and the bridge is of the types covered.
8) Does the Program Comment apply to culverts as well as bridges?
Yes. Under the Program Comment, a common bridge is defined as a common post-1945 bridge or culvert of a type identified in Section V. Section V of the Program Comment specifically includes culverts and reinforced concrete boxes, including concrete box culverts, concrete pipe culverts, and steel pipe culverts.
9) How will Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act be addressed for those bridges which fall under the Program Comment and not evaluated under the Section 106 process?
Presently, Department of Transportation agencies must comply with the requirements of Section 4(f) for any project affecting a property listed or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. This Program Comment does not change that responsibility; however, FHWA is currently pursuing several options that would extend the programmatic benefits to the Section 4(f) process for the bridges covered under the Program Comment.
10) What is the deadline for completing a list of bridges of exceptional significance (Section IV.C of the Program Comment) and what if a state does not meet that deadline?
The Program Comment states: “Each FHWA Division wishing to apply the provisions of this Program Comment must organize a meeting of the relevant SHPO, DOT, and other interested parties in order to develop the list of bridges that meet the criteria considerations in IV.C. The list should be finalized and submitted to the Federal Preservation Officer of FHWA by March 31, 2013.” States are encouraged but not required to complete the list by March 31. They may develop and submit the list to the Federal Preservation Officer at any time. However, agencies are not able to apply the Program Comment to bridges in that state prior to doing so.
11) Who is responsible for organizing the meeting required in Section IV.C of the Program Comment to identify post-1945 bridges of exceptional significance?
The FHWA Division office within a state is responsible for organizing the meeting required in Section IV.C of the Program Comment. Planning for the meeting may be delegated to a state DOT, however a representative of FHWA should participate in the meeting and be involved in developing the list of common bridges of exceptional significance. In addition, the list of bridges of exceptional significance must be transmitted from the FHWA Division to the Federal Preservation Officer (FPO).
12) Is consultation required to develop a list of exceptional bridges?
Each FHWA Division wishing to apply the provisions of the Program Comment must organize a “meeting” of the relevant SHPO, DOT and other interested parties in order to develop the list of bridges that meet the criteria considerations in Section IV.C. The purpose of the meeting is consultation with knowledgeable and interested individuals, including the SHPO, to identify any readily known examples of common bridges with exceptional significance. FHWA has discretion regarding how best this meeting should occur and when.
13) How should the FHWA Division identify appropriate parties to invite to the meeting to identify exceptional bridges?
The FHWA Division, in consultation with the state DOT and SHPO should make a reasonable and good faith effort to involve individuals and organizations with a particular interest in historic bridges in the required meeting. Parties concerned with the preservation of bridges who have participated in consultation on individual bridge projects, experts, statewide preservation organizations, and others should be provided sufficient notice and an opportunity to participate in the meeting to identify post-1945 bridges of exceptional significance. Divisions are also strongly encouraged to invite the participation of state or regional representatives of other Federal agencies who may wish to apply the Program Comment, as well as agencies that may own or have management responsibilities for common post-1945 bridges on Federal lands.
14) Can the list of exceptional bridges be revised at a later date?
Yes. There may be a need to update or modify the list of exceptional bridges within a state based on new information, changes in the condition or integrity of an exceptional bridge, or to supplement the list with one or more exceptional bridges not previously considered (e.g., bridges on Federal lands when the Federal agency with jurisdiction was not consulted in developing the initial list). Any amendments to a state's Section IV.C list should be submitted to the FPO at FHWA to ensure it is posted on the supporting website.
15) What documentation is required to support a list of exceptional bridges (or an absence of bridges of exceptional significance)?
No documentation is required in support of the list of exceptional bridges. It would be helpful to include a brief explanation of why a bridge was included in the list to inform future consultation regarding that bridge and for the benefit of other states that may be seeking guidance on the question, but the intent of Section IV.C is to identify such bridges without requiring additional research and documentation.
16) Is a comprehensive review and evaluation of the post-1945 bridges required to identify which bridges in the state are of exceptional significance?
No. The list that is to be developed with the Division, DOT, SHPO, and other interested parties is for Section IV.C only (that is, for bridges that are of the common types identified, but have some sort of readily recognizable exceptional quality). For example, Oklahoma has identified only the common bridges on its four Scenic Byways as exceptional, thereby ensuring that those bridges will be reviewed individually rather than included in the Program Comment if/when a project that may affect them is proposed. The intent of the Section IV.C list is NOT to create a context or conduct a survey. A bridge on the Section IV.C list is not automatically deemed eligible, but the Program Comment would not apply to it, and instead it would be individually considered in the Section 106 process at 36 CFR 800.3 through 800.6 or another existing program alternative under 36 CFR 800.14 (e.g., a statewide PA).
17) Does the Program Comment require SHPO concurrence in the list of exceptional bridges?
No. The SHPO is required to be included in the meeting to identify any exceptional bridges for the Section IV.C list, the purpose of which is to provide the SHPO and others an opportunity to identify any post-1945 common bridges that should be excluded from the Program Comment. However, the decision about which bridges are included in the list per Section IV.C of the Program Comment rests with FHWA.
18) How will the Program Comment alter Section 106 review at the time a specific project affecting a post-1945 bridge is proposed?
Once a state has completed and filed with FHWA's Federal Preservation Officer the list of exceptional bridges, as required in Section IV.C, any Federal agency wishing to apply the Program Comment in that state must still initiate and carry out Section 106 review for the proposed action in accordance with the applicable Section 106 process (i.e., the process at 36 CFR 800.3 through 800.6 or another existing program alternative under 36 CFR 800.14) in order to determine if other historic properties may be affected by the undertaking.
At the time a specific undertaking is proposed, the Federal agency official must also apply the considerations in Section IV.A, B, and C of the Program Comment to determine if the affected common bridge is (A) listed in or has previously been determined eligible for the National Register or is located adjacent to or within a historic district; or (B) is or includes spans of the following types: arch bridges, truss bridges, bridges with movable spans, suspension bridges, cable-stayed bridges, or covered bridges, or (C) is included in the list of exceptional bridges developed by the FHWA Division. If any one of the considerations applies to a potentially affected common post-1945 bridge, the Federal agency proposing the undertaking must individually consider effects to that bridge in the Section 106 review process. If none of the considerations apply, no additional review or consideration of effects on that bridge is required. The Federal agency official should document the application of the Program Comment in its correspondence with the SHPO and other consulting parties and in the project file.
19) What assistance is available to states in implementing the Program Comment?
FHWA will maintain a webpage with information on the Program Comment, with examples of the bridge types that are included within its scope, of bridges that may be considered to have exceptional significance, and as they are received from the States, any common post-1945 bridges that meet the Section IV.C considerations as exceptional. As States complete and submit to FHWA their lists of bridges of exceptional significance, the lists will be posted on the FHWA website (http://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/histpres/bridges.asp).
For additional information, please contact the appropriate FHWA Division office in state of interest (www.fhwa.dot.gov/hep/hepdivoff.cfm).
Federal Highway Administration
Federal Preservation Officer
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
Section IV. Considerations
A. The bridge is listed in or has previously been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places…
…or is located adjacent to…
…or within a National Register listed or eligible historic district (such as the series of bridges included on the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail).
B. The bridge has been identified as a very early or particularly important example of its type in a State or the nation,…
…has distinctive engineering or architectural features that depart from standard designs, such as an aesthetic railing or balustrade…
…includes spans of exceptional length or complexity…
…or displays other elements that were engineered to respond to a unique environmental context.
The following examples of railings do NOT meet the considerations:
Kansas Corral Railing
Type T6 - Tubular W Beam
Type 26 Concrete Barrier with Sidewalk
New Jersey Concrete Barrier
Section V. Bridge Types for which No Individual Consideration under Section 106 is Required
A. Reinforced concrete slab bridges
i) Reinforced concrete cast-in-place slab bridges
ii) Reinforced concrete pre-cast bridges
iii) Pre-stressed concrete slabs
B. Reinforced concrete beam and girder bridges
i) Reinforced concrete T-Beams
ii) Pre-stressed concrete channel beam
iii) Pre-stressed concrete I-Beam
iv) Pre-stressed concrete box beams
C. Multi-Beam or Multi-Girder bridges
i) Metal-rolled multi-beams
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FHWA assists in the preservation of historic bridges and encourages States to incorporate the concepts of context sensitive design in the rehabilitation and reuse of historic bridges. Programs for historic bridge preservation include:
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State Bridge Programs
The Humpback Covered Bridge was built in 1857 for the old James River and Kanawha Turnpike Company. The center of the floor and roof is about four feet higher than at the ends. It is the only bridge of its design in the United States.
Many State DOTs have developed historic bridge programs. These programs aim to preserve the historic and cultural value of long-standing bridges where possible and expedite the consideration of historic bridges in project development and environmental review. For example, Indiana's Historic Bridge Program helps planners prioritize a list of bridges for preservation, while providing bridge owners incentives for this preservation.
To uncover more information about States' historic bridge programs, visit the State Practices Database or the following links.
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Additional Bridge Resources
- Recycled Railroad Bridges for Trails
- Historic Bridges Community of Practice includes case studies, references and a forum for participants to identify emerging issues, trends, procedures, research, and data needs associated with the identification, evaluation, and management of our nation's historic bridges. Portions of this new CoP are currently available to the public, while other features will be opening to additional members summer '09.
- A Context for Common Historic Bridge Types — NCHRP 25-25, Task 15, October 2005
- Guidelines for Historic Bridge Rehabilitation and Replacement, originally developed under the NCHRP and recently adopted as an AASHTO publication, presents the state of the practice and decision making guidance for historic bridge rehabilitation.
- AASHTO Center for Environmental Excellence includes information, resources, and best practices for a variety of historic preservation and cultural resource areas, including historic bridges) includes guidance, reports, best practices.
- Best Practices for the Rehabilitation and Moving of Historic Metal Truss Bridges available from the Virginia Transportation Research Council.
- Historic Bridges: A Heritage at Risk: A report on a workshop on the Preservation and Management of Historic Bridges held in Washington, DC, in December, 2003 is available at http://www.srifoundation.org at Library.
- Moving Henszey's Bridge, a case study describing the relocation and restoration of an 1869 wrought iron bowstring truss bridge in Pennsylvania.
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