April 21st, 2011
HISTORY MAKERSPreserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.
A recent study provides an inventory of post-war bridges and identifies bridges that are historically significant.
Many transportation projects require a state or federal environmental study process before construction. Part of that process requires the UDOT study team to consider the significance of the built environment. Bridges are often part of that built environment, along with other structures or properties such as homes, public buildings or sometimes the road itself.
One step in the environmental study process is to determine whether or not a bridge is eligible to be listed o the National Register of Historic Places. The survey of post-war bridges will help UDOT during environmental study processes by providing a reference of National Register eligible existing post-war bridges.
Elizabeth Giraud, Architectural Historian in the UDOT Environmental Services Division had the responsibility of guiding the study process which was conducted by Mead and Hunt. A report of the study is posted on the UDOT Environmental Services website in three parts.
Volume l details the study methodology and purpose of the study along with a history of bridge construction that provides historical context for Utah’s bridges. The history section is interesting and very informative and well worth reading for anyone interested in bridge construction.
Volume ll contains a list of bridges along with criteria used for evaluation and a recommended list of bridges to be included on the National Register. Inventory forms for each bridge are also posted.
“People don’t often know what makes a property historically significant,” says Giraud. Just being “old” or “pretty” does not qualify a bridge for NRHP inclusion — three areas of importance must be considered and evaluated.
First, a bridge must be 50 years old. UDOT uses 45 years as the determining age to account for time between the end of an environmental study and beginning of construction.
Second, the bridge must be historically significant, “meaning that the features that render the bridge historically significant are still intact,” says Giraud. To have historical significance, a bridge must have examples of structural or aesthetic elements that show bridge construction trends or standards in place at the time of construction.
Third, a bridge must have significance in relationship to historic trends, events or people or “be noteworthy for its type of construction or design,” according to Giraud.
Out of the 409 bridges evaluated, Mead and Hunt determined that only 32 were eligible for inclusion on the National Register. Next, UDOT’s Central Environmental staff will work with the Utah State Historic Preservation Office to formulate a Programmatic Agreement that will “further streamline the environmental process for bridges,” explains Giraud.