Successful Communication in the Section 106 Process

Focus Area

Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources

Subcommittee

Community & Cultural Concerns

Status

Current

Cost

Under $99,000

Timeframe

1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

A nationwide survey of how transportation agencies from all levels are successfully communicating with both internal and external project partners throughout the Section 106 process. The survey would focus on documenting the current state of practice that state, local, tribal, and federal transportation agencies have deployed to aid in clearer communication, managing expectations, and achieving issue resolution all within acceptable timeframes to deliver a successful transportation project. What ongoing training and communications protocols/opportunities have such agencies developed and deployed? For those agencies that have not developed such training or protocols, what issues, confusion, or misunderstanding do they experience; and do they have ideas on how to better integrate the Section 106 process into the project development process? The survey would gather successful methodologies and best practices currently in use around the country for other agencies to employ and incorporate into their own best practices, as well as identify the problems and needs for agencies which have not adopted such best practices. This research was developed in coordination with TRB AME60.

Urgency and Payoff

There is vast variability between the states and federal agencies on when and how cultural resources work starts. A common theme however is that the other project development partners – planners, design engineers, construction engineers, resource agencies, the NEPA document writer – often don’t fully understand what cultural resources are and why they matter/have laws in place to address/protect them as well as the steps and processes cultural resources professionals need to complete their work and when (e.g., consultation, survey, evaluation, and assessment of effects analysis). In addition, once we do get involved, the lingo and language in our process may create barriers to those outside our profession in understanding what we mean or what information we need. For example: APEs; MOAs; adverse effects even when we are preserving something; period of significance; character-defining features; and even a simple work like “preservation” can have multiple and differing meanings to us than our project partners. Our project developer partners and the public sometimes do not understand our jargon, making our process seem inaccessible and inexplicable at times. Many of the common issues and conflicts many cultural resources professionals face may stem from these and other communication issues. Identifying best practices and options and providing them to other states and agencies struggling with their communication may result in more efficient project delivery with reduced costs, time, and tensions between partners.

Suggested By

Kristen Zschomler Mead & Hunt 7632763761

[email protected]

Submitted

04/08/2021