A change in the way the federal government reviews bridge projects for possible historical significance – one long-advocated by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) – could save taxpayers an estimated $78 million and reduce wait times for repair projects on more than 196,000 U.S. bridges.
A November 16 decision by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) will allow the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to streamline the historic preservation process for concrete and steel bridges built after 1945 by allowing the projects to go through the regulatory review process as a group, rather than individually.
In an Oct.1 letter supporting the change, ARTBA noted that the approach is similar to how the agency dealt with historic preservation issues impacting rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Interstate Highway System (IHS) under the prior surface transportation reauthorization law. At that time, ARTBA similarly supported exempting large portions of the IHS from historic preservation regulations by identifying areas with historic value beforehand.
ARTBA said the new review process “recognizes while there will certainly be instances where active steps to preserve historical portions of the bridges will be necessary, the majority of bridge improvements in this class will not affect anything of historical significance.”