Evaluate the Current Relevance of Section 4(f) in Terms of Preservation of Historic Properties

Focus Area

Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources


Community & Cultural Concerns






1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

I would like to see a study review the current relevance of Section 4(f) in terms of preservation of historic properties.  Has it outlived its purpose, and now acts more as a hindrance to preservation than a help, and in the age of streamlining too much of a duplication of Section 106 of the NHPA.  In addition, the NHPA promotes preservation (above avoidance) and 4(f) promotes avoidance, the laws often act at cross purposes.  Section 4(f) is all about avoidance, but as the ACHP states in their guidance on treatment of archaeological sites (http://www.achp.gov/archguide.html), “… simple avoidance of a site is not the same as preservation.”  If we redesign the interchange to avoid the NRHP eligible building, but now place in a quadrant at the intersection where a gas station is immediately built demolishing the avoided building is this a success?  The Section 4(f) evaluation process should also apply equally to all historic properties.  The law states, “Section 4(f) does not apply to archeological sites where the Administration, after consultation with the SHPO and the ACHP, determines that the archeological resource is important chiefly because of what can be learned by data recovery and has minimal value for preservation in place.”  Why does this not also apply to buildings eligible only under Criterion C, which are mitigated through data recovery?  It has been argued that the “original intent” of the law didn’t address archaeological sites and as such, they are not treated equally as historic building and bridges.  Is the current application of Section 4(f) doing more harm than good to the preservation of all historic properties?

Tasks could include:

  • a review of properties that state DOTs avoided due to Section 4(f) in the last 10 years and determining if avoiding them resulted in their preservation
  • identifying how early in project development the 4(f) resource was identified and avoided;
  • how many individual 4(f) evaluations are done and are they more effective in avoiding/preserving historic properties than programmatic 4(f)s; &
  • distinguish between federal/state/local projects to determine if there is a group that is more successful using 4(f) to preserve historic properties and if there might be a different/better way to accomplish the same end.

Urgency and Payoff

For the past 40+ years, Section 4(f) often drives alignment decisions.  Has it outlived its effectiveness?  Does Section 106 adequately ensure the consideration of cultural resources during project development?

Suggested By

Mike Meinkoth, Missouri Department of Transportation, 573-526-3593

[email protected]