The Application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to Streamline the Identification of Historic Properties on Federally Funded Transportation Projects

Focus Area

Historic Preservation/Cultural Resources


Community & Cultural Concerns






1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

Section 106 Historic Property identifications in advance of federally funded transportation projects are typically very costly and time consuming. This process is less effective and efficient than it should be. Advances in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) present an opportunity to streamline the cost and time factors associated with the identification stage of the NEPA process. Some literature on the application of GIS to identify Historic Properties does exist; however, there is no summary and evaluation of these applications. This project will provide a nationwide synthesis of the roles GIS has played in streamlining taxpayer cost time to reach Section 106 compliance on federally funded transportation projects.  

Objectives and Benefits

This synthesis will provide transportation agencies with necessary guidance for the use of GIS to identify Historic Properties in a more cost and time efficient manner. Specific questions to be addressed include:

  • What research literature currently exists concerning the use of GIS to identify Historic Properties on a national basis regardless of transportation application?
  • How often has the application of GIS to identify Historic Properties been utilized in transportation projects, and under what NEPA categories, Categorical Exclusions, Environmental Assessments, and Environmental Impact Statements?
  • How have historic preservation agencies utilized GIS to identify Historic Properties and how has it been accepted by State Historic Preservation Officers and/or the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation?
  • How cost and time effective is the use of GIS to identify Historic Properties to state and federal agencies that use them? Can it be demonstrated that the use of GIS has saved money or time to identify Historic Properties?
  • What individual success stories of the use of GIS to streamline, both in terms of time and money, the identification of Historic Properties can be applied nationwide as a standard on federally funded transportation projects going through Section 106 / NEPA compliance?

Urgency and Payoff

There is no known research presently under way concerning this practice. Limited research has been undertaken on a project wide or state basis (NCHRP Synthesis 347 and NCHRP 25-25), but there is no nationwide synthesis of this topic acting as a barometer of how well GIS works in saving time and money in the NEPA process to advocate for its implementation as a standard methodology on certain types of federally funded transportation projects. Information concerning this practice typically is exchanged on an anecdotal or informal basis among state and federal transportation agencies, SHPO’s and academia.

Suggested By

Antony F. Opperman, TRB ADC50 Chair

[email protected]