WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) today announced the issuance of a Program Comment that exempts undertakings that might affect historic rail properties within rail rights-of-way from Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act in an effort to streamline rail and transit infrastructure projects.

“This is an important initiative that will bring significant efficiencies to rail and transit infrastructure projects that involve federal assistance or permits,” said ACHP Executive Director John M. Fowler. “Through these efforts, we are balancing the need to preserve historic properties while ensuring a sound and reliable national transportation system.”

A Program Comment is one among a number of administrative tools that the ACHP can use to provide greater flexibility and tailored approaches for federal agencies as they work to ensure that historic preservation interests are balanced with development needs. The ACHP’s issuance of this comment complies with the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) requirement that the ACHP issue an exemption consistent with what was done for the interstate highway system in 2005.

The Program Comment adopts a two-pronged approach to meet the FAST Act statutory requirement: an activities-based approach and a property-based approach.

The activities-based approach details the specific activities that are exempt from Section 106 review, which should have minimal or no adverse effects on historic properties. These activities include routine maintenance, repair, and upgrades to railroad and public transit historic properties that receive federal assistance or permits from the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Transit Administration, and other agencies. The Program Comment recognizes that, over time, these activities might alter historic properties within the railroad right-of-way, but such changes are an integral part of operating and managing railroads and public transit lines that move passengers and freight throughout states, regions, and localities.

The property-based approach provides an optional process for identifying excluded historic rail properties that are subject to Section 106 review, while exempting consideration of effects to other rail properties.

If a federal agency responsible for carrying out, licensing, permitting, or assisting an undertaking with the potential to affect historic rail properties within rail rights-of-way meets the terms of this Program Comment, its Section 106 responsibility to take into account those effects will be satisfied.

Click here to read the Railroad Right-of-Way Program Comment.