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Section 4f


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This portion of the document will give you a brief history of Section 4(f). (A more comprehensive history is provided in the Policy Paper.) When you have finished, you should have a basic understanding of the statute's origins and intent.

Since the mid-1960s, federal transportation policy has reflected an effort to preserve the beauty and integrity of publicly owned public parks and recreation areas, waterfowl and wildlife refuges, and historic sites considered to have national, state or local significance. The Department of Transportation Act (DOT Act) of 1966 included a special provision to carry out this effortSection 4(f).

Section 4(f) of the DOT Act stipulated that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and other DOT agencies cannot approve the use of land from a significant publicly owned public park, recreation area, wildlife or waterfowl refuge, or any significant historic site unless the following conditions apply:

  • There is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of land.
  • The action includes all possible planning to minimize harm to the property resulting from use.

Since 1966, Section 4(f) has undergone two minor changes, although neither has affected the statute's intent. The first of these changes was a 1968 amendment to Section 4(f)'s wordingan effort by lawmakers to reconcile the language with a similar piece of legislation. The second change was a result of the 1983 recodification of the DOT Act, in which Section 4(f) became 49 U.S.C. Section 303. Technically speaking, the statute is no longer Section 4(f); however, because of its widespread familiarity among state and federal employees, it continues to be officially recognized by its original name.


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