[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 172 (Wednesday, September 5, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 54652-54655]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-21699]



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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Highway Administration

[FHWA Docket No. FHWA-2012-0075]


Draft Program Comment for Common Post-1945 Concrete and Steel 
Bridges

AGENCIES: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of Intent to issue Program Comment for Common Post-1945 
Concrete and Steel Bridges; request for comments.

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SUMMARY: The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) is 
considering issuing a Program Comment at the request of the Federal 
Highway Administration setting forth the way in which FHWA will comply 
with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act with regard 
to the effects of undertakings on common post-1945 concrete and steel 
bridges. The FHWA is requesting comments on the proposed Program 
Comment.

DATES: Submit comments on or before September 26, 2012.

ADDRESSES: Mail or hand deliver comments to the U.S. Department of 
Transportation, Dockets Management Facility, 1200 New Jersey Avenue 
SE., Washington, DC 20590, or submit electronically at 
www.regulations.gov or fax comments to (202) 493-2251. All comments 
should include the docket number that appears in the heading of this 
document. All comments received will be available for examination and 
copying at the above address from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., e.t., Monday 
through Friday, except Federal holidays. Those desiring notification of 
receipt of comments must include a self-addressed, stamped postcard or 
may print the acknowledgment page that appears after submitting 
comments electronically. Anyone is able to search the electronic form 
of all comments received into any of our dockets by the name of the 
individual submitting the comment (or signing the comment, if submitted 
on behalf of an association, business, labor union, etc.). You may 
review DOT's complete Privacy Act Statement in the Federal Register 
published on April 11, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 70, Page 19477-78) or 
you may visit http://dms.dot.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: MaryAnn Naber, FHWA Office of 
Planning, Environment, and Realty, (202) 366-2060, 
maryann.naber@dot.gov or Carol Legard, ACHP Office of Federal 
Permitting, Licensing, and Assistance, (202) 606-8522, 
clegard@achp.gov. For legal questions contact Diane Mobley, FHWA Office 
of the Chief Counsel, (202) 366-1366, diane.mobley@dot.gov. Office 
hours for the FHWA are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., e.t., Monday through 
Friday, except Federal holidays.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Electronic Access

    This document may be viewed online through the Federal eRulemaking 
portal at: http://www.regulations.gov under docket ID FHWA-2012-0075. 
Electronic submission and retrieval help and guidelines are available 
on the Web site. It is available 24 hours each day, 366 days this year. 
Please follow the instructions. It is also available on FHWA's Web site 
at: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov. In addition, a hard copy may be viewed and 
copied at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Dockets Management 
Facility, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC, 
20590.

Background

    Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires 
Federal agencies to consider the effects of their undertakings on 
historic properties and to provide ACHP a reasonable opportunity to 
comment with regard to such undertakings. The ACHP has issued the 
regulations that set forth the process through which Federal agencies 
comply with these duties. Those regulations are codified under 36 CFR 
part 800 (Section 106 regulations).
    Under Section 800.14(e) of those regulations, agencies can request 
ACHP to provide a ``Program Comment'' on a particular category of 
undertakings in lieu of conducting individual reviews of each 
individual undertaking under such category, as set forth in 36 CFR 
800.4 through 800.7. An agency can meet its Section 106 
responsibilities with regard to the effects of particular aspects of 
those undertakings by taking into account ACHP's Program Comment and 
following the steps set forth in that comment.
    The ACHP is now considering issuing a Program Comment at the 
request of FHWA that would streamline the way in which FHWA and other 
agencies may comply with Section 106 of the National Historic 
Preservation Act with regard to common post-1945 concrete and steel 
bridges.
    The FHWA is taking steps to inform the public and historic 
preservation organizations about this proposed Program Comment and to 
solicit their views. These efforts include an email distribution to all 
FHWA Division offices, State transportation agencies, the Historic 
Bridge Foundation, the Historic Bridge Alliance, the National Register 
of Historic Places, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, State 
Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs) and others. In addition, FHWA 
will post the proposed Program Comment on the agency Web site.
    As explained in the Program Comment itself, every year FHWA funds 
the rehabilitation and replacement of hundreds of bridges, many of 
which are of common types constructed by State transportation agencies 
after 1945, using reinforced concrete or steel beams and designs that 
quickly became standardized. These common bridge types are generally 
undistinguished, have little value for preservation in place, and are 
rarely viable candidates for relocation.
    The FHWA proposes the following Program Comment in accordance with 
36 CFR 800.14(e) in order to waive case-by-case Section 106 review of 
common post-1945 bridges. This program comment would apply to effects 
of undertakings on common concrete and steel bridges lacking 
distinctive treatments, of little value for preservation in place, and 
not located within or adjacent to historic districts.
    Under the Program Comment, for undertakings affecting the specified 
common bridge types, FHWA or another Federal agency official would have 
the option of following the requirements of the Program Comment in lieu 
of case-by-case consultation with regard to the effects of proposed 
work on that bridge. However, the Program Comment would not be a waiver 
from Section 106 for Federal undertakings that may affect common 
bridges. For bridges which meet any of the considerations designated in 
Section IV of the Program Comment, individual consultation would 
continue to be required. In addition, Federal agency officials would 
still have to complete Section 106 review and consider effects of the 
undertaking on historic properties other than the bridge itself.
    The Program Comment proposes two types of programmatic mitigation 
to resolve potential adverse effects: Historic American Engineering 
Record documentation of at least one example of each of the common 
post-1945 bridge types included in the Program Comment, and 
encouragement of State departments of transportation to carry out 
bridge inventories. The ACHP is specifically requesting that commenters 
propose any additional ideas they may have for appropriate programmatic 
mitigation measures.
    Public comments on this proposed Program Comment will be accepted 
on or before September 26, 2012. Once the

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public comments resulting from this notice are considered, and edits 
are incorporated as deemed appropriate, the ACHP will decide whether to 
issue the Program Comment.

    Authority: 23 CFR 800.14

    Issued on: August 15, 2012.
Victor M. Mendez,
Administrator.

Text of the proposed Program Comment

    The following is the text of the proposed Program Comment:

Program Comment for Common Post-1945 Concrete and Steel Bridges

I. Introduction

    Every year, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds the 
rehabilitation and replacement of hundreds of bridges under the 
Federal-aid program administered across the U.S. by State departments 
of transportation (DOT) and the Federal Lands Highway program. Other 
Federal agencies are also involved with projects affecting bridges 
through Federal assistance, approvals, or permits. Many of the bridges 
affected by these programs are of common types constructed by State 
transportation agencies after 1945, using reinforced concrete or steel 
beams and designs that quickly became standardized. These common bridge 
types are generally undistinguished, have little value for preservation 
in place and are rarely viable candidates for relocation. Yet, all 
federally funded or permitted projects affecting these bridges require 
review and consultation pursuant to Section 106 of the National 
Historic Preservation Act (16 USC 470f) to assess whether the bridge is 
eligible for inclusion in the National Register and, if so, to resolve 
potential effects. Regulations developed by the ACHP and codified at 36 
CFR Part 800 describe the procedures Federal agencies must follow to 
meet this obligation.
    Alternate compliance methods, provided by the Section 106 
regulations allow agencies to meet these Section 106 obligations, but 
tailor the process to their mission and needs. Section 800.14(e) of the 
regulations provides that any agency may request a ``Program Comment'' 
from the ACHP in lieu of case-by-case review. The benefit of a Program 
Comment is that it allows a Federal agency to comply with Section 106 
in a single action for a class of undertakings rather than addressing 
each undertaking as a separate action. The FHWA proposes the following 
Program Comment in accordance with 36 CFR 800.14(e) in order to waive 
case-by-case Section 106 consideration of effects on common post-1945 
bridges. This Program Comment would be available for use by all Federal 
agencies. It would relieve Federal agencies from the need, under 
Section 106, to individually consider the effects of undertakings on 
the bridges described in Section V of this Program Comment, with the 
exceptions noted on Section IV, since such bridges lack distinctive 
treatments, are of little value for preservation in place, and are not 
located within or adjacent to historic districts.

II. Background

    To develop this proposed Program Comment, FHWA met with individuals 
from the ACHP staff, the National Conference of State Historic 
Preservation Offices, the American Association of State Highway and 
Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the National Trust for Historic 
Preservation. Participants in the meetings all have expertise on 
considering historic bridges in the Section 106 review process. At the 
meetings, the group members provided FHWA with individual advice and 
information. Members of the group identified bridge replacement 
projects as a category of undertakings that could be streamlined with 
regard to effects to common post-1945 reinforced concrete or steel 
bridges. Individuals within the group further recommended that of the 
alternatives to standard Section 106 review available, a Program 
Comment would be the most appropriate way to modify the review process 
to meet the needs of FHWA as well as other Federal agencies. To 
identify the types of bridges that could be addressed in a single 
comment from ACHP, FHWA referred to a national context for common 
historic bridges and the National Bridge Inventory.
    In October 2005, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program 
published ``A Context for Common Historic Bridge Types.'' That context 
revealed that a great many of the structures built after 1935, and 
especially since 1946, are strictly utilitarian and lacking in 
distinctive engineering or architectural qualities. Increasing 
standardization associated with highway design as a result of growing 
Federal funding and the evolving standards of AASHTO both contributed 
to the uniformity of design in bridges of certain types.
    Information about America's bridges, including their age and 
condition, is readily available in FHWA's National Bridge Inventory 
(NBI). The NBI is a collection of information (database) covering just 
under 600,000 of the Nation's bridges located on public roads, 
including Interstate Highways, U.S. highways, State and county roads, 
as well as publicly accessible bridges on Federal lands. It presents a 
State by State summary analysis of the number, location, and general 
condition of highway bridges within each State. This database contains 
detailed technical and engineering information about hundreds of 
thousands of bridges in the United States, including year built, bridge 
type, condition and many other fields. Some 45,000 bridges in the NBI 
are rated as structurally deficient, meaning that portions of the 
bridge may be in poor condition. Approximately 61,680 are identified as 
functionally obsolete, meaning that the design of the bridge does not 
meet current guidelines for its use, such as lack of safety shoulders 
or the inability to handle certain traffic volume, speed, size, or 
weight. Bridges in these categories are frequent candidates for 
replacement. This Program Comment is intended to dispense with the 
routine administrative burden of considering the effects of replacement 
on these bridges on a case-by-case basis and make delivery of these 
critical projects more efficient without affecting the preservation 
outcome for the vast majority of common post-1945 bridges.

III. Applicability

    The proposed Program Comment relieves Federal agencies from the 
need to individually consider the effects of undertakings on the bridge 
types identified in Section V, except for those subject to the 
considerations noted on Section IV, in the course of compliance with 
Section 106.
    Undertakings include those that involve applications from State 
transportation agencies or local governments for Federal permits, 
approvals, or assistance that will result in alteration, replacement, 
or demolition of one or more of the common bridges or culverts listed 
in Section V below (hereafter, ``common bridges''). All Federal 
agencies may take advantage of the streamlining provided by this 
Program Comment when it is adopted by the ACHP. Data from the NBI or 
existing State surveys may be used to support the determination that a 
particular bridge is eligible to be considered under the provisions of 
this Program Comment in terms of its age and type of construction. 
However, if data from the NBI is used, that information must be 
verified in the field by a qualified engineer or cultural resource 
professional to ensure that the date and type have been correctly 
recorded and that the bridge does not

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meet any of the other considerations under Section IV that would render 
it ineligible for this Program Comment.
    The Program Comment is intended to apply to effects on common 
bridges, regardless of ownership, except for those located on Indian 
tribal lands \1\. For undertakings affecting common bridge types 
identified in Section V, FHWA or another Federal agency official may 
follow the requirements of this Program Comment in lieu of case-by-case 
consultation with regard to the effects of proposed work on that 
bridge. This Program Comment is not a waiver from Section 106 for 
Federal undertakings that may affect common bridges as described in 
Section V. Federal agency officials must still complete Section 106 
review and consider effects of the undertaking on historic properties 
other than the bridge itself. Such effects to other historic properties 
may be direct or indirect, and must be considered by the Federal agency 
official whether or not the Program Comment is applicable to the 
subject bridge. For example, bridge replacement projects may have the 
following types of effects to non-bridge historic properties that would 
need to be considered:
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    \1\ Indian tribes wishing to use the streamlining measures in 
this Program Comment for common bridges on lands under their 
jurisdiction are encouraged to enter into program alternatives 
pursuant to 36 CFR 800.14.
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     disturbance to archeological sites as a result of 
construction-related ground disturbing activities;
     change in physical features within the setting that 
contribute to historic significance of a historic property, including 
alterations that a new bridge may have on the historic setting and 
feeling of an adjacent historic district;
     change in traffic patterns that may affect the setting, 
feel, and association of a historic district; or
     effects to other historic properties based on the need for 
temporary construction, detours, or right-of-way.

IV. Considerations

    Prior to utilizing this Program Comment for an undertaking that may 
affect a common bridge, a qualified cultural resource specialist must 
complete a review to determine if the following considerations apply. 
If the Federal agency official, or a State official delegated the 
responsibility by statute or a Programmatic Agreement executed under 
the provisions of Section 106, determines that the bridge in question 
meets any of the following, an agency may not utilize this Program 
Comment with regard to that bridge:

    A. The bridge is listed in or has previously been determined 
eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or is located 
adjacent to or within a National Register listed or eligible 
historic district, including linear historic districts such as a 
parkway, historic road, or canal.
    B. In consultation among the Federal agency, State Historic 
Preservation Office (SHPO), and any applicants for assistance, the 
bridge is identified as a very early or particularly important 
example of its type in a State or the Nation, has distinctive 
engineering or architectural features that depart from standard 
designs, such as an aesthetic railing or balustrade, includes spans 
of exceptional length or complexity, or displays other elements that 
were engineered to respond to a unique environmental context. [See: 
http://www.environment.fhwa.dot.gov/histpres/index.asp for examples]
    C. The bridge in question is or includes spans of the following 
types: arch bridges, truss bridges, movable spans, suspension 
bridges, or covered bridges.

States will have until December 31, 2012, to develop a list of any 
exceptional bridges which should be considered as meeting the 
considerations above. The FHWA Division shall organize a meeting of the 
SHPO, DOT, and other interested parties to determine which, if any, 
post-1945 bridges within the State meet the considerations above and 
therefore would NOT fall under the terms of this Program Comment. Where 
States already have a current (within the last 5 years) Programmatic 
Agreement, inventory, or management plan for historic bridges that 
identifies bridges meeting any of the listed considerations, the data 
included in those Programmatic Agreements, inventories, or management 
plans may suffice to make those determinations. States with existing 
Programmatic Agreements may apply the terms of such agreements in lieu 
of this consultation to identify particularly significant examples of a 
common type.
    The intent of this section is not to require a statewide survey or 
context to be developed where none exists, but to exclude readily 
recognizable exceptional bridges from the Program Comment much in the 
same way that was done for the Interstate Highway exemption. It is 
understood that some bridges that fall into the types specified in 
Section V may be eligible for the National Register under local or 
State significance. Consequently some may be overlooked as not being 
exceptional; however, it is doubtful that any of these would warrant 
individual consideration under Section 106 even if they were to be 
determined National Register eligible. Accordingly, this Program 
Comment would effectively waive all subsequent requirements for 
consideration of effects under Section 106 regarding bridges which fall 
into one of the common types and do not meet any of the considerations 
above.

V. Bridge Types for Which No Individual Consideration Under Section 106 
is Required

    Based on the historic bridge context, the NBI, information 
developed in statewide bridge inventories across the U.S., and 
consultation with the National Conference of SHPOs and other 
stakeholders, the following common bridge types are well-documented 
standardized designs that lack individual distinction.\2\ Provided none 
of the considerations specified in Section IV above apply, Federal 
agencies do not have to consider the effects of undertakings on the 
bridges that fall into the following categories under Section 106:
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    \2\ Descriptions and examples of these common bridge types can 
be found in A Context for Common Historic Bridge Types. NCHRP 
Project 25-25, task 15, October 2005 (http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/archive/NotesDocs/25-25%2815%29_FR.pdf) .

A. Reinforced concrete slab bridges
    (i) Reinforced concrete cast-in-place slabs
    (ii) Reinforced concrete pre-cast slabs
    (iii) Pre-stressed concrete
B. Reinforced concrete beam and girder bridges
    (i) Reinforced concrete T-Beams
    (ii) Reinforced concrete channel beams
    (iii) Reinforced concrete girders
    (iv) Reinforced concrete rigid frames
    (v) Pre-stressed concrete I-Beams
    (vi) Pre-stressed concrete box beams
C. Multi-Beam or Multi-Girder bridges
    (i) Metal-rolled multi-beams
    (ii) Metal fabricated (built up) girders
    (iii) Metal rigid frames

VI. Programmatic Mitigation

    A. If a suitable example from at least one State is not already 
included in the collection, one set of Historic American Engineering 
Record (HAER) documentation, including at least narrative history 
and photographs, for each bridge type in Section V shall be prepared 
and submitted by FHWA for acceptance by HAER. The FHWA will 
coordinate with HAER to determine which, if any, of these types are 
not yet represented in the HAER collection and will work with the 
FHWA Division offices and State DOTs to identify a candidate for 
each type not already represented. The FHWA will complete 
recordation to HAER standards of at least one example for each type 
not already represented in the HAER collection and will submit such 
documentation to HAER before December 31, 2013.
    B. The FHWA will encourage States that have not done so within 
the last 5 years to update inventories of historic bridges in their 
States to better ensure that bridges meeting the considerations in 
Section IV above are

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identified and considered early in the Section 106 review process.

VII. Definitions

    If not specifically addressed below, terms used within this Program 
Comment shall be defined consistent with the definitions provided in 36 
CFR part 800.
    Common Bridge is, for purposes of this Program Comment, a common 
post-1945 bridge or culvert of a type identified in Section V.
    Program Comment is an alternative to Section 106 review that allows 
a Federal agency to request the ACHP to comment on a category of 
undertakings in lieu of conducting individual reviews under Sections 
800.4 through 800.6 of the regulations (36 CFR Part 800).
    Qualified cultural resource specialist means an individual meeting 
the Secretary of the Interior's professional qualifications for 
historian or architectural historian by virtue of education and 
experience to carry out historic preservation work.

[FR Doc. 2012-21699 Filed 9-4-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-22-P