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Nebraska: Construction of South and East Beltway, Lincoln

Agency: Federal Highway Administration

Criteria for ACHP Involvement:

  • This project may affect large numbers of historic properties, including many in the Stevens Creek valley (Criterion 1).

  • There is considerable public interest and debate over the proposed plan (Criterion 3).

Recent Developments

In June 2001, the National Trust for Historic Preservation (Trust) notified ACHP that it disagrees with the boundaries proposed for seven historic farmsteads found eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places that may be affected by construction of the proposed beltway around Lincoln, Nebraska. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Nebraska State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) have agreed upon more restrictive boundaries than favored by the Trust, which has included the historic properties in the Stevens Creek valley on its 2001 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

The Trust requested ACHP to ask FHWA to seek a formal determination of eligibility from the Keeper of the National Register for the Herter’s-Hagaman Farm, Forest Brook Farm, Penterman Farm, Michael Smith Farmyard, Haeger Dairy, Alan and Shirley Retzlaff Farm, and the Stevens Creek Stock Farm. In accordance with Section 800.4(c)(2) of ACHP regulations, FHWA is required to seek such a determination upon a request by ACHP.

Following the Trust’s request, ACHP consulted further with the Trust, FHWA, and the Nebraska SHPO to determine if the dispute could be resolved without FHWA going to the Keeper. After the parties were unable to reach consensus, ACHP determined that a formal determination from the Keeper was the most expedient method of resolving the disagreement. In August 2001, ACHP requested FHWA to seek a final determination of eligibility for the seven ranches.


The City of Lincoln, Nebraska, proposes to build a four-lane beltway around the south and east sides of the city, thus completing a transportation loop road network around Lincoln. The proposed project will utilize funds from FHWA. (For more information on the project, visit ACHP first became aware of the proposed beltway in 1998. Since that time, consultation for this project has proceeded among many parties, including the Nebraska SHPO, City of Lincoln, the Trust, and the local group Citizens for a Responsible Route Selection.

In March 2001, FHWA published a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that includes several alternatives for the proposed south and east routes, a discussion of the historic properties that may be affected by these routes, and an assessment of effects that may result from the proposed beltway. A preferred alternative was not identified in the draft EIS.

Contentious discussions have taken place over the three alternatives proposed for the east route, known as East Close-1 (EC-1), East Mid-1 (EM-1), and East Far-1 (EF-1), with EC-1 being the closest route to downtown. EF-1 appears to be the route that would directly affect the most historic properties. This route would cut through the Stevens Creek valley, prime agricultural land containing farmsteads that document a continuum of 150 years of rural history.

In addition to direct adverse effects that would occur if EF-1 was implemented, future development as a consequence of the new road could have serious impacts to historic properties. ACHP has disagreed with statements in the draft EIS that adverse effects to historic properties brought on by increased development do not need to be considered because the City of Lincoln has developed a comprehensive plan for managing future growth. Although the comprehensive plan may serve to help mitigate the effects of associated growth, ACHP believes that such effects need to be considered under both the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

Policy Highlights

ACHP’s regulations recognize that a project’s adverse effects include any that are reasonably foreseeable, even if they may occur later in time, are farther removed in distance, or are cumulative. The potential for “sprawl” development in the wake of new road construction is a classic example. While ultimately such development can only be effectively controlled at the local level, it is important that Federal decisionmakers consider the potential for Federal projects to entail such foreseeable impacts.

Staff contact: Jane Crisler

Updated June 6, 2002

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