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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Fall 2002 arrow Pennsylvania: Widening of U.S. Route 202, Chester and Delaware Counties
Pennsylvania: Widening of U.S. Route 202, Chester and Delaware Counties

Agency: Federal Highway Administration

The area surrounding U.S. Route 202 in Pennsylvania holds many historic resources, some dating back to the early 18th century. The proposed widening of a short stretch of US 202 to relieve traffic congestion will particularly affect the Revolutionary War site of the Battle of Brandywine, where British troops occupied the battlefield in 1777 but failed to destroy General George Washington’s army.

Because much of the integrity of the historic site has already been compromised by commercial development, some question the value of trying to preserve a battlefield that may also soon be developed.

The Pennsylvania Division of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) are proposing improvements to a 7.5-mile section of US 202 in Chester and Delaware Counties, Pennsylvania. The improvements include widening the existing four-lane road to six lanes with grade-separated interchanges, at-grade jughandles, and spur roads.

William Townsend House on US 202, Pennsylvania

 

 


William Townsend House on US 202, PA (photo courtesy of KCI Technologies, Inc.)

 

 

 

The area that will be affected by the highway expansion project is rich with historic resources. Most notably, it contains the site of the Battle of Brandywine, where, in 1777, the British army engaged General George Washington’s troops on Brandywine Creek, 25 miles from Philadelphia. The American troops’ survival at this battle contributed to the defeat of the British eight days later at the Battle of Saratoga, which many historians consider was the major turning point of the American Revolution.

The area also boasts two historic districts; the National Register-listed William Townsend House; the 1704 National Historic Landmark (NHL) Brenton House; and a number of National Register-eligible 18th- and 19th-century vernacular domestic buildings built with the area’s characteristic green serpentine stone.

Under Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, FHWA cannot approve the use of land from a historic property unless it is determined that there is no feasible and prudent alternative to use of that land, and that the action includes all possible planning to minimize harm. In addition, Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires that all planning and actions minimize harm to NHLs.

The widening alternatives under consideration attempt to avoid the battlefield as much as possible and involve taking up to 13 acres of the battlefield adjacent to US 202. Because several historic properties line the opposite side of the road, moving the road to avoid the battlefield would adversely affect the other historic properties.

Because a vast majority of the battlefield’s 6,000 acres is privately owned and has already been developed with housing, car dealerships, gas stations, and other commercial enterprises, FHWA questions the value of preserving the portion of Brandywine Battlefield along US 202 at the expense of other historic properties and farmsteads, which may have a better chance of survival.

A number of agencies and organizations are participating in consultation on the project since Section 106 was initiated in 2001, including the National Park Service, the Brandywine Battlefield Task Force, the Brandywine Conservancy, and Chester and Delaware Counties. Following two consultation meetings, FHWA and PennDOT released a Criteria of Effects report in 2001, with an Environmental Assessment planned for release in late 2002. ACHP has requested a follow-up meeting with all consulting parties to discuss the project’s alternatives in more detail.

Staff contact: Karen Theimer Brown


Posted November 7, 2002

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