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The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Management Considerations for Historic Roads in Virginia
Ann B. Miller
Ann B. Miller
Ann B. Miller
Year: 2019
VTRC No.: 19-R31

Historic roads—those eligible for or listed on the National Register of Historic Places—may require special planning, design, and management considerations so as to avoid negative effects on their significant elements. This study identified various issues that can affect historic roads.  Drawing on this information, the study identified appropriate considerations for management of historic roads.  These include documentation, considerations for planning for repair and improvement design, and maintenance practices that can be used for advance planning purposes and will not adversely affect a road’s elements of historic integrity. Because historic roads can feature a wide variety of types and significant elements, a document such as this report can be particularly useful in cultural resource review relating to transportation issues.  For this reason, this study was both identified as an important need and requested by cultural resource personnel of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). 


Major conclusions of the study include the following: (1) the history, needs, and condition of any historic road are unique and need to be considered as such in planning and management; (2) accurate documentation of the history, construction, and changes over time to an historic road is vital to planning any project involving such a road; (3)various elements—history, historic structures and related cultural resources, changes to the road, associated landscapes, current condition, current stakeholder input, and current transportation needs—must be considered when project planning involves historic roads; (4) it is feasible to identify and explore maintenance practices that will not overly change the appearance of historic roads or affect their historic significance but rather will improve the maintenance and safety of the roadways; and (5) appropriate actions and treatments for historic roads and roadside elements may differ from modern aesthetics.   


The study also included case studies of two roads in Virginia for which maintenance and repair/improvement design practices had become issues: (1) a road listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and (2) a road eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. 


Study recommendations include (1) coordination between VDOT’s Environmental Division and other appropriate VDOTdivisions, depending on project scope, of activities that might have an effect on the character-defining features of an historic road for which a project is being developed; and (2) documentation of the earlier/original appearance(s) and changes to an historic road in order to have the most accurate information for planning purposes when a project involving that road is being developed.