Transportation and historic preservation professionals have been voicing concerns for many years about the National Register eligibility evaluation process. During the 1996 Transportation Research Board (TRB) Environmental Research Needs in Transportation Conference, the conference’s Cultural Resources Group identified “Review and Improvement of the Existing Process and Procedures for Evaluating Cultural Resource Significance” as the group’s highest priority research need. Subsequent to the TRB conference, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) funded a study to begin to address this research need. This study (NCHRP Project 8-40) reviewed how various agencies managed and organized cultural resource inventory data and historic contexts; and if information technology applications were useful in developing resource inventories and historic contexts, and in making National Register eligibility evaluations. The study found that SHPO and state DOT staff rarely use historic contexts to evaluate the National Register eligibility of properties. The NCHRP Project 8-40, unfortunately did not explore why historic contexts were not used. The project also did not explore more fully what methods were actually being used by transportation and historic preservation specialists in making National Register eligibility evaluations.
With a better understanding of how this process is conducted across the country, transportation and historic preservation professionals can assess if current practices are in fact working well, and if not, how the evaluation process can be improved. The objectives of this study were 1) to identify how practitioners actually evaluate the National Register eligibility of properties, in the context of transportation projects, and 2) to identify and/or develop best practices for evaluating National Register eligibility.
The final report can be downloaded here.