New Deal Roadside Landscape Features

Arthur Nichols' sketch reveals what today is known as "Context Sensitive Design." Nichols considered issues such as safety, aesthetics, and environmental compatibility.

 

Preservation Philosophy
Responsible Stewardship

Mn/DOT’s goal is to balance transportation safety and efficiency with responsible stewardship for the state's historic properties. Mn/DOT's study of roadside facilities is part of the Department's continuing efforts to identify historic resources, to take them into consideration during project planning, and to make careful decisions about their future.

Congress’ 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) requires state transportation departments to develop a State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which provides a planning framework for transportation improvements. Because of the roadside facilities study, Mn/DOT’s STIP now directs project managers to go a step beyond statutory requirements. It states:

Today, Mn/DOT manages ... significant non-renewable resources. As responsible stewards, the first goal is always to avoid affecting historic properties; ... As responsible stewards, even when there is no federal oversight, all studies and planning for corridors or corridor components, should consider provisions to protect our important historic resources. Additionally, in early planning stages, ... consider restoring each historic property on a case-by-case basis.

Mn/DOT’s Cultural Resources Unit helps implement this directive by providing federal Section 106 reviewing assistance on specific state- and federally-funded projects. The Unit has co-sponsored several statewide studies of cultural resources frequently encountered in highway projects, including the roadside development inventory. The Cultural Resources Unit also created Mn/Model, a modeling tool that predicts where archaeological sites will be encountered. Minnesota's historic bridges and historic farmsteads have been analyzed, and a railroad study is planned. Mn/DOT has concluded that such studies, while involving considerable up-front cost and effort, are a successful and cost-effective way to identify historic properties and integrate them into project planning.

Minnesota is also one of five pilot states nationwide that are demonstrating how transportation needs can be balanced with environmental, cultural, community, and aesthetic concerns by applying “Context Sensitive Design” (CSD) principles. Mn/DOT is beginning to incorporate CSD into all aspects of transportation project development and is committed to developing projects that include early and continuous stakeholder involvement, flexible design, safety, aesthetics, environmental stewardship, and community sensitivity. Historic preservation fits well within the range of stewardship concerns that CSD seeks to address.

Since its completion, the roadside development study has brought greater appreciation for Mn/DOT’s historic roadside facilities and a commitment to treat, manage, and maintain them in an appropriate manner. Mn/DOT is now developing strategic planning documents that will streamline historic reviews, inform more sensitive design and solutions, and help prioritize, manage, and preserve these important resources. Ultimately, Mn/DOT plans to seek funding opportunities to rehabilitate or restore many of the most significant roadside development sites.

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Cultural Landscape Currents is a product of the Historic Landscape Initiative | Questions or Comments?

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