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Nebraska: Construction of South and East Beltway, Lincoln

Agency: Federal Highway Administration

Criteria for ACHP Involvement:

  • Concerns have been raised regarding indirect effects the project might have on historic properties, including many in the Stevens Creek Valley (Criteria 2 and 3).

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

Recent Developments

In December 2001, ACHP received a response from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to its request that FHWA seek a formal determination from the National Register of Historic Places regarding the boundaries of seven historic farmsteads that may be affected by the construction of the proposed beltway around Lincoln, Nebraska. FHWA indicated that it intends to choose a route for the project that would not directly cut through the farmsteads, and that contacting the National Register was thus unnecessary.

ACHP responded to FHWA in January 2002, questioning the prudence of FHWA committing to a particular alternative prior to the issuance of a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Moreover, because FHWA did not respond to earlier comments regarding potential cumulative effects to historic properties that may result from the proposed beltway, ACHP again requested FHWA to address this issue by providing information on the project’s Area of Potential Effects.

Because of the close proximity of the proposed alternatives to one another and to the farmsteads, ACHP believes all of the alternatives for the proposed project possess the potential to affect the seven historic farmsteads. Thus, ACHP reiterated its view that seeking a final determination from the National Register is the most efficient way to move the Section 106 consultation forward.


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 State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), City of Lincoln, National Trust for Historic Preservation (Trust), and the local groups Preservation Association of Lincoln and Citizens for Accountable Route Selection.

In March 2001, FHWA published a draft EIS that includes several alternatives for the proposed south and east routes, a discussion of the historic properties that may be affected, 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 and their potential impact on the Stevens Creek Valley, prime agricultural land containing farmsteads that document 150 years of rural history.

In addition to direct adverse effects that could occur, 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 NEPA and the National Historic Preservation Act.

In June 2001, the Trust notified ACHP that it disagrees with the boundaries proposed for seven historic farmsteads found eligible for listing in the National Register that may be affected by construction of the proposed beltway. FHWA and the Nebraska SHPO have agreed upon more restrictive boundaries than those favored by the Trust, which 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 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 August 2001, ACHP forwarded such a request to FHWA.

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 such an 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 contribute to such foreseeable impacts.

Staff contact: Jane Crisler

Updated May 6, 2003

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