Historic roads are an intrinsic part of the nation’s heritage, representing diverse periods and trends in engineering design from the wagon roads that survive in rural areas to early transcontinental routes. Some are seemingly common while others, such as the Lincoln Highway and Route 66, have become iconic. As linear resources with a current transportation function, historic roads pose a challenge for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), state departments of transportation (DOTs), and state historic preservation offices (SHPOs) to identify, define, and evaluate for historic significance.
FHWA and state DOTs are required to consider the effects their transportation projects may have on historic roads that are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (National Register), pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Historic roads eligible for listing in the National Register are also protected under Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act. A number of states have undertaken efforts to develop historic contexts to assist with the identification and evaluation of historic corridors within their respective states. Although the typology and significance of important historic corridors will vary nationally, there are potential common themes and methodologies that could benefit those state DOTs that have not undertaken this type of research on their own. Additionally, a synthesis of this information could reveal gaps in available information and recommend further research avenues.
The objective of this research is to synthesize existing research and methodologies for identifying and evaluating the National Register eligibility of historic roads.