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SHA's Historic Contexts

As part of the Maryland State Highway Administration’s (SHA) regulatory compliance process, we work closely with the Maryland Historical Trust (Trust), which is the Maryland State Historic Preservation Office, and the Federal Highway administration (FHWA), to develop information about Maryland’s cultural resources that could be affected by transportation projects. Beginning in 1995, SHA undertook statewide studies of bridges, small highway structures and the history of suburbs. The three studies, "Historic Highway Bridges in Maryland: 1631-1960, Historic Context Report", "Small Structures on Maryland’s Roadways, Historic Context Report", and "Suburbanization Historic Context and Survey Methodology", examine the development of a variety of historic resources from the colonial period to 1960. Each context provides a methodology identifying character defining elements (CDEs), including primary features, and important construction dates, architects, engineers, and events, such as inventions or the development of materials, with which historic resources can be assessed to determine their eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

SHA uses the bridge context as the basis to evaluate its' bridges’ eligibility for the National Register, and to determine if they should be included in the SHA’s Historic Bridge Inventory. The Trust accepted the inventory's eligibility and determinations in July 2001. A study of improvements in the I-495/I-95 corridor in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties provides information about the history of suburbs in Maryland. The two-volume context report identifies the variety of residential, commercial and civic developments that transformed the landscape in and around Washington D.C. and Baltimore beginning in the nineteenth century. The small structure report focuses specifically on those roadway structures that are less than twenty feet long. Two periods of significance are identified: those from the first half of the nineteenth century associated with the development of Maryland’s early turnpikes and the National Road and those from the first half of the twentieth century associated with the development of the Maryland State Roads Commission’s Standard Plans for concrete small structures built between 1912 and 1933.

These contexts are valuable tools to assist the SHA and the Trust in the Section 106 (historic preservation) consultation process. All three agencies were active in the documents’ development and review. The Trust agreed with and accepted the findings of each context report and copies are also available in the Trust’s library.

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