skip general nav links ACHP home About ACHP

ACHP News

National Historic
Preservation
Program


Working with
Section 106


Federal, State, & Tribal Programs

Training & Education

Publications

Search
 skip specific nav links
Home arrowNews arrowDecember 7, 2012

Program Comment Expedites Review Process for Nearly 200,000 Bridges Nationally, Saving $78 Million

A process that will streamline historic review requirements under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) for almost 200,000 bridges nationwide saving approximately $78 million has been put in place by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) in concert with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and other agencies.

“This is an excellent example of how government functions in a commonsense manner to safeguard America’s heritage for present and future generations while reducing fiscal burdens,” said Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA, ACHP chairman. “We have now ensured that truly historic structures receive the attention they deserve while older, common, cookie-cutter assemblies don’t unnecessarily squander taxpayer resources.”

Common bridge types like this concrete girder bridge will not require individual review under the program comment.

The ACHP has issued a Program Comment that will eliminate historic review requirements under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act for the repair or replacement of common post-1945 concrete and steel bridges. Read the full program comment here.

Section 106 requires federal agencies to consider the impacts of federal undertakings – including issuing permits, funding, or direct actions – upon historic properties before taking any actions. This requirement applies to FHWA’s Federal-Aid Highway Program which provides state and local governments with matching funds for infrastructure improvements, such as highway and bridge repairs. The ACHP is an independent federal agency that administers the Section 106 process on behalf of the federal government.

The FHWA, the agency responsible for complying with Section 106 for the Federal-Aid Highway Program, requested the Program Comment. The FWHA estimates that the action could exempt almost 200,000 bridges and save taxpayers $78 million over the next 10 years. 

FHWA proposed the Program Comment, after consulting with the ACHP, National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and others. The purpose was to identify measures to streamline Section 106 review for concrete and steel bridges that 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, FHWA was required, under Section 106, to document and evaluate each bridge of at least 50 years age, individually, to determine if it was historically significant.

This new Program Comment eliminates case-by-case review for this category of structures, while retaining the requirement for FHWA to consider the effects of its actions on other historic properties affected by the project. The Program Comment supports the FHWA Administrator’s Every Day Counts initiative, as well as the provisions to improve the efficiency of environmental reviews in the 2012 surface transportation authorization bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).

The Program Comment does not apply to arch bridges, truss bridges, movable spans, trestles, viaducts, suspension bridges, covered bridges, or common bridges that are already listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The Program Comment also requires FWHA to consult with others to develop a list of common bridges that are of exceptional historic significance for exclusion from the Program Comment.

FHWA must develop a list of common bridges that are of exceptional significance and that will also not be covered by the Program Comment for each state wishing to use the Program Comment. For more information on common bridge types, including those covered by the Program Comment, check out the NCHRP Publication: “A Context for Common Historic Bridge Types."

Please contact Carol Legard at 202-606-8522 or via e-mail at clegard@achp.gov if you have questions or need additional information.

Return to Top