Transportation Success Stories
Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, the law that established the US DOT, is intended to protect significant parks, recreation areas, wildlife refuges, and historic sites from the effects of transportation projects. Under Section 4(f), historic sites and other protected resources must be avoided, unless there is “no feasible and prudent alternative” and all “possible planning to minimize harm” has been utilized. This legal requirement has become an indispensible safeguard to protect our historic and cultural resources.
Here are examples from around the country of Section 4(f) in action.
710 Freeway Extension
In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, neighborhoods in South Pasadena, Pasadena, and the predominantly Hispanic community of El Sereno in Southern California were threatened by a proposed six-mile, $1.4 billion extension of the Route 710 freeway. Ultimately, it was the mandate of Section 4(f) to avoid historic properties that brought the federal and state transportation agencies back to the drawing board.
Fort McHenry, the site that inspired the National Anthem, was originally slated to be overshadowed by an elevated interstate highway bridge. Section 4(f) was instrumental in leading to a better transportation solution and saving an iconic historic resource with enduring value to the nation.
The Merritt Parkway
The Merritt Parkway was threatened by a proposed interchange expansion project in Norwalk. The 4(f) mandate to incorporate “all possible planning to minimize harm” was the substantive standard that ultimately caused the state and federal transportation agencies to revise their plans and significantly down-size the interchange.
In the late '90s, the Wisconsin DOT wanted to demolish and replace the historic 1930 Michigan Street Bridge -- an unusual rolling-lift, bascule-type bridge -- in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Because of Section 4(f) the federal and state transportation agencies changed their plans, with the support of city and county officials.