Performance Analyses of Transportation Liaisons in State Historic Preservation Offices
Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources
Community & Cultural Concerns
Under 1 year
Research Idea Scope
BACKGROUND: Beginning in in the early 1990s, some State Department of Transportations (State DOTs) began to fund additional staff positions at resource agencies to expedite project delivery. After the passage of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) in 1998. Section 1309(e) of TEA-21 gave DOTs the option to spend federal-aid highway dollars to fund positions at other agencies in order to meet cooperatively determined timeframes, if such amounts are “necessary…to meet the time limits for environmental review” and “if such time limits are less than the customary time necessary for such review.” In 2005 the authority to fund additional staff at resource agencies was extended and broadened with enactment of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, and Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The law retained and broadened the funding authority, allowing State DOTs to support activities outside the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. Section 6002 of SAFETEA-LU allows State DOT to fund staff positions at Federal and State resource agencies which are dedicated to working on State DOT projects for environmental streamlining and related planning activities. Collectively known as transportation liaisons, these positions are located throughout the country. These liaisons possess expertise in specific environmental disciplines, including historic preservation. As liaisons, historic preservation professionals serve on the staff of State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPO)–typically in the role of Section 106 reviewers. In turn, the SHPO liaison positions are utilized to free more time for other SHPO staff to focus on State DOT transportation project reviews. While at least one State DOT, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has had a transportation liaison arrangement with their respective State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) which dates from the passage of TEA-21 in 1998, more State DOT-SHPO liaison programs were created after the passage of SAFETEA-LU in 2005. According to the AASHTO Center for Environmental Excellence report “DOT-Funded Positions and Other Support to Resource and Regulatory Agencies, Tribes, and Non-Governmental Organizations for Environmental Stewardship and Streamlining Initiatives” (May, 2005) SHPOs had continued to add State DOT-funded positions at a relatively high rate, 53 percent since 2003, for a total of 50.5 nationwide. According to the “State Transportation Liaison Funded Positions Study” (FHWA, 2006) most transportation agencies have developed performance measures to evaluate whether the funded positions are meeting agency needs. These performance measures are typically part of the interagency funding agreements to establish and implement the respective liaison programs. The report also noted that while performance measures are usually quantitative, more “mature” liaison programs have also added qualitative measures. Although the report provided broad recommendations for establishing performance measures, it not clear whether the 2006 recommendations have been subsequently used by State DOTs as a guide to developing performance measures and, if so, whether the performance measures developed using the recommendations have been effective in accurately assessing of liaison program performance. For the SHPO liaison programs, as with other transportation liaison programs, a key performance measure is tied to both expedited project delivery and fulfilling reporting requirements. Since a Section 106 Programmatic Agreement (PA) is itself a streamlining tool for project delivery, some State DOTs with SHPO liaison programs have developed performance measures that align with their respective statewide PA. In California, for example, performance measures for the SHPO liaison program are tied to performance measures are based on the procedural steps of the Section 106 process as defined in 36 CFR 800, and in the Section 106 Statewide PA among Caltrans, FHWA, SHPO and ACHP. Quick literature reviews and anecdotal information suggest that there have not been any substantive efforts to follow up on either the 2005 AASHTO report or the 2006 FHWA report nor has there been a report that focuses exclusively on the performance of the various SHPO liaison programs nationwide. Although there is a Transportation Liaison Community of Practice (COP) website maintained by FHWA, access to the COP is limited. Likewise, access to most reports generated as part of maintaining SHPO liaison programs is not readily available. At present, practitioners or others seeking information regarding how well the liaison positions are actually performing have few current resources to consult. This is a critical gap, not only for those State DOTs that are considering establishing a SHPO liaison program but also for those State DOTS with an existing SHPO liaison program who are seeking additional efficiencies in enhance the performance of their respective liaison programs OBJECTIVES: The goals of this research are (1) to identify State DOTs that currently have SHPO liaison programs; (2) identify, if possible, key performance measures that are shared by most, if not all of the SHPO liaison programs; (3) analyze how SHPO liaison programs are performing nationwide; (4) based on the performance analysis, identify factors that impede the success of SHPO liaison programs as well as those factors that contribute to successful SHPO liaison programs and (5) synthesize “best practices” for establishing and maintaining effective SHPO liaison programs. Best practices could include, but should not be limited to developing performance measures, establishing terms of interagency agreements and ensuring program viability. RELATIONSHIP TO THE EXISTING BODY OF KNOWLEDGE: Quick literature reviews and anecdotal information suggest that there have not been any substantive efforts to follow up on either the previously referenced 2005 AASHTO tor the 2006 FHWA reports. Perhaps more importantly, no report has yet been prepared that focuses exclusively on the performance of SHPO liaison programs nationwide. TASKS: Research objectives include the following tasks: • Identify State DOTs that currently have SHPO liaison programs in place via literature searches and interviews with State DOT representatives and others (including SHPO/SHPO staff) • Identify, if possible, key performance measures that are shared by most, if not all of the SHPO liaison programs. • Analyze how SHPO liaison programs are performing nationwide • Based on the performance analysis, identify factors that impede the success of SHPO liaison programs as well as those factors that contribute to successful SHPO liaison programs • Using the results of the literature search, interviews, and performance analysis develop a synthesis of best practices” “best practices” for establishing and maintaining effective SHPO liaison programs. Best practices could include, but should not be limited to, developing performance measures, establishing terms of interagency agreements and ensuring program viability.
Urgency and Payoff
This research will provide a readily available resource for State DOTs that are considering establishing a SHPO liaison program. It will also provide State DOTS with an existing SHPO liaison program essential “baseline” information to enhance the performance of their respective program and indicate areas that potentially warrant improvement or that need to be reconsidered. Also, linking programmatic approaches to establishing and maintaining SHPO liaison programs would enable State DOTs to refine their respective programs, thus contributing to efficient transportation project delivery through timely and thoughtful Section 106 reviews.