Merging New and Old Schools: Combining GIS and Historic Right-of-Way Maps to Improve Project Planning

Focus Area

Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources


Community & Cultural Concerns




Under $99k


1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

Historic Right-of-Way (ROW) maps provide invaluable information on buildings, structures, and other features that were within or along ODOT ROW.  Today, some of these features may have been destroyed for road construction, leaving no visible sign of past use.  Remains of these features are often manifested as archaeological sites, which require ODOT’s consideration during project planning and construction.  ODOT archaeologists utilize historic ROW maps to more accurately determine the probability of encountering archaeological sites associated with buildings, structures, and other features.  This knowledge allows for improved project planning by pinpointing specific areas to examine for archaeological resources and can help minimize inadvertent discoveries during construction. Unfortunately, ROW maps are an underutilized asset that cannot efficiently be examined on a project-by-project basis.  The proposed research proposal would consolidate pertinent information from historic ROW maps, improve archaeological methodology, streamline project planning, and reduce inadvertent discoveries during construction. Proposed research would include contacting several DOT agencies to determine if they have attempted this effort, what worked, what did not work, etc. Research would involve the review of historic ROW maps to identify buildings, structures, and other features within and along ODOT ROW.  Data, including the spatial location of each feature and feature attributes (e.g. type of building, ROW map date, and other comments), would be transferred to a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program that ODOT currently utilizes, ArcGIS.  Locations of these features would be developed into a theme layer that would allow ODOT archaeologists, Regional Environmental Coordinators, Hazardous Materials Specialists, affected Tribes, and the State Historic Preservation Office, etc., to view features on a project, corridor, county, or statewide level.  This layer would work in concert with other ArcGIS layers archaeologists utilize to assess the probability of archaeological resources during project planning. ROW map review and ArcGIS digitation would be completed by interns.  ODOT archaeologists would review work for sufficiency.

Urgency and Payoff

The benefits of this research are several fold: 1) Historic ROW maps are an available, yet invaluable and underutilized resource with untapped potential. 2)  Preliminary Engineering costs would be reduced.  Having this data available in GIS would allow for rapid archaeological review and assessment during initial project planning, would improve archaeological fieldwork     methodology, and allow ODOT to focus efforts on these features. 3)  Construction Engineering costs would be reduced.  Improved planning during project development would reduce the probability for inadvertent discoveries which often delay construction and increase costs. 4)  Within ODOT, the information could be shared with specialists that would directly benefit from this information, such as Regional Environmental Coordinators, Hazardous Materials Specialists, affected Tribes, and the State Historic Preservation Office, etc. 5)  Outside ODOT, the results and testing of this research proposal would benefit other DOTs along the same lines as ODOT.

Suggested By

Kurt Roedel, Oregon Department of Transportation