In the early 1990s, Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation began promoting a more balanced transportation system as a way to improve quality of life. One key element of this community-friendly approach was the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program. The Transportation Enhancements program had been a significant federal source of historic preservation funding. During its 20-year tenure, it is estimated that 1/3 of the total $13.4 billion dedicated to more than 24,000 transportation-related projects has helped fund the restoration of historic train depots, one-lane bridges, and a host of other preservation projects.
With the passage of Map-21 in 2012, Transportation Enhancements no longer exists as a separate program, but is part of a larger program called the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). Although there were significant changes to the program, Historic preservation project are still eligible for funding under TAP. Preservation of transportation-related historic and cultural resources, including historic bridges and roads, rail depots and other historic transportation facilities, streetscaping, and archeology are all eligible TAP projects.
Integration of Historic Preservation early in the Transportation Planning Process
Although the traditional sources preservationists used for project funding are far more limited, other opportunities exist to integrate historic preservation in the transportation planning process. One potential source of funding, which has more than $1 billion available, is for statewide and metropolitan planning. Under federal law, every state must prepare a Long Range Plan (LRP), which examines expected transportation needs for the next 20 years, and a Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), a multi-year list of projects proposed for federal, state, and local transportation funding. Similarly, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) are required to prepare a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), a three-to-five-year list of transportation projects for the region. Transportation planning should be conducted openly and be accessible to all citizens and local communities, including historic preservation interests. Historic preservation can be integrated with strategic transportation planning in a number of ways. Recent research done by the SRI Foundation and Cambridge Systematics Inc., outlines various best practices among states engaging in the transportation planning process. These activities range from survey work to predictive modeling, and from preservation staff dedicated to transportation work to innovative resource identification and protection programs.
Livable Community Initiatives
The National Trust supports the creation of programs to integrate historic preservation in comprehensive planning efforts that take into account sustainability and smart growth principles. With the 2010 creation of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities to coordinate livability and sustainability principles and initiatives throughout the Department of Transportation along with coordination at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency, we ask that they work with historic preservation agencies and organizations who have been celebrating and enhancing the livability and sustainability of our historic neighborhoods for many years.