The PennDOT and IUP Partnership: A Personal History – IV

Legacy Collections without End: The Second IUP Contract (2002-2007)

2002 was going to be a year of change for PennDOT.  In May, the first IUP agreement was going to expire. In August, PennDOT’s commitment to hire on the 5 IUP QPs was coming due.  Although it might seem to the uninitiated that bringing 5 state employees from one agency to another would be a simple matter, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  For one, there was never a commitment from PennDOT to hire the actual individuals from IUP into the PennDOT fold.  The commitment was to give the IUP QPs an opportunity to apply to the PennDOT positions being created.

Given that there was a gap between the expiration of the May IUP agreement and the August PennDOT hiring commitment, we created a bridging agreement (MOU 430636) that covered that time frame.  Basically, the MOU extended the IUP Agreement long enough to complete the PennDOT hiring process, which began that summer.  By the end of August, all but one of the IUP QPs had been brought over to PennDOT as permanent employees, and by September 9th, the last PennDOT committed position had been filled. During this time, moving the agreements through signature was a somewhat harrowing experience as we met deadlines often by a matter of days.

Whither our relationship with IUP?  In theory, it could have ended with the hiring of the IUP QPs into PennDOT.  Instead, as 2002 unfolded, it became apparent that there was value in keeping the IUP partnership going.  For one, the two Byways to the Past Conferences held in 2000 and 2001 were successful and suggested they be continued.  Secondly, we needed an outlet for both popular and technical publication of our advanced studies and archaeological data recoveries.  The first publication on the King of Prussia Inn was successful, but were difficult to produce.  For some reason, PennDOT does not think of itself as a publishing house.  We needed support.  

Finally, it was becoming apparent that many of the archaeological projects completed by PennDOT since the early 1980’s had never been submitted to the State Museum.  There had not been a consistent policy in place at PennDOT to mandate the submittal of collections upon completion of analysis and for various reasons they were abandoned to the contractor.  Prior to 1999, adverse effects to archaeological sites were seen as not adverse in the eyes of Section 106 as long as a data recovery was conducted. This meant that none of these projects had associated MOAs or PA’s, which would have spelled out curation requirements.  Secondly, PennDOT budgets for archaeological work were set prior to the start of excavations.  If more fieldwork was needed, the Project Managers would instruct the archaeological firm to keep digging, but pay it out of artifact processing and report writing. Sometimes, at the end of the final report, there were no funds left to prepare the collections for curation or pay the curation fee.  Sometimes, there wasn’t money left to prepare a final report, but that was “OK” as long as the draft report was accepted by the SHPO and the project proceeded. Inevitably, once the project went to final design and was built, the project line item was closed, meaning there was no funding source to clean up loose ends.  More complicated data recoveries often took years to finish, well beyond the ribbon cutting date.  Most of the time, the consultant was left holding the collections, sometimes for decades. We thought that Archaeological Services at IUP could help us in this regard by cleaning up those old legacy collections.

With these ideas in mind, we worked with IUP to create an MOU to replace MOU 430636.  MOU 430639 was executed July 29, 2002 and while it did not provide PennDOT with QPs, it did provide other services over the next 5 years.  Ironically, one thing the MOU did not provide was training to PennDOT during that period – IUP’s roots are as a teacher’s college.  Due to the silo mentality found in state institutions, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had chosen to siphon off anything that might remotely be considered training into its own unit, to be managed by the Office of Administration and the Bureau of Human Resources.  Had we chosen to leave training in the MOU, the agreement would have had to be reviewed by both of those offices, on their own timetable. We could have taken the more traditional approach within PennDOT and have called training “familiarization” but that seemed more of a risk than we were comfortable with and our deadlines in 2002 were fierce indeed.

In December, the first fruits of our efforts began to appear.  Two recent archaeological studies, at Gayman’s Tavernand Mansfield Bridge, were considered worthy for popular publication as we continued the Byways to the Past Series begun with the King of Prussia Inn.  The consultants that conducted the studies and wrote the technical reports prepared the text and images for the popular booklets. Joe Baker would inevitably badger the authors and/or rewrite material himself to get it into popular form.  We both agreed that there is something about archaeologists that precludes writing for the public.  My own theory is that we like to work with dead people because they never talk back.  Communicating with the living is another matter, as we are all just versions of Sheldon Lee Cooper.

That same month, PennDOT issued a task assignment for the production of a compact disc on the results of the Oberly Island Excavations.  Grey literature has been a chronic problem in archaeology going back decades.  Final technical reports might have only one or two copies, which would be kept in either the SHPO’s office, or at Temple or Pitt. Even the existence of these reports was not widely known and at the time electronic versions were completely unknown. The use of compact discs to disseminate important data recovery reports was for us an advance, and was becoming more common across the country. Today, we expect to download this information from web sites or to our phones, but I would like to remind folks that in 2002, the World Wide Web was a teenager, and that iTunes had not yet been launched as a service.   Over the years, IUP produced a number of CDs on our more important projects, which have been distributed to the professional community.  As the capability to download these large technical reports is now with the CRGIS, PennDOT’s CD business is rapidly coming to an end.  The remaining CDs are being distributed at statewide professional meetings, or being used as drink coasters.

Also in December, we executed a task assignment for IUP to begin processing these older abandoned collections.  When collections had been halted in processing, they may have been washed; many had not.  They may have been cataloged, but some had only the catalog sheets from the original inventorying.  Many had not been labeled or re-bagged in clean and durable polyethylene bags for long-term storage.  And certainly, none of the collections had been submitted with the curation fees that would have been owed.  A brief digress here.  Curation fees is a bit of a misnomer.  The State Museum policy was to actually curate the collections without charge; however, the process of accessioning them was costly and those costs needed to be recouped.  Accessioning included checking collections against the submitted catalogs, making sure the materials were properly labelled and bagged, and that they were in suitable acid-free containers.  When the gap between the actual and promised state of the collection was small, the State Museum staff would make up the difference, labelling and bagging as necessary, rather than returning the collection back to the firm to be redone. Accessioning was an extended quality control process and labor intensive.  The fees charged for collections under the flag curation were really accessioning fees.

Having IUP process these collections was a very good fit for us.  IUP already had an operational laboratory that was being used for Archaeological Services work.  Archaeological Services could provide the technical oversight in directing the laboratory.  Finally, there was  a pool of anthropology students who could work on the collections part time.  One of the eternal truisms of life is that student labor is cheap labor, so we were able to process the collections at a fraction of the cost it would have taken the archaeology firms who originally generated them.  Working closely with the State Museum, we were able to establish under which standards collections would be processed, given that some collections were at that time 20 years old and standards had changed.  By processing collections to current (2002) standards, the State Museum was willing to waive the curation fees, which would have amounted to tens of thousands of dollars. In July 2003, after finally acknowledging the full extent of the problem, PennDOT executed a separate 4-year $450,000 MOU (430647) with IUP for processing these collections. The entire legacy collections program was managed by Chris Kula, start to finish, through this and subsequent contracts.

As MOU 430639 progressed through the early 2000’s, PennDOT and IUP took advantage of the flexibility written into the MOU to conduct the following varied tasks:

  • Graphic support for the 2003 Tribal Summit.
  • Supporting Project Archaeology, which was a program to train teachers and professionals on how to develop public outreach materials, especially our Byways publications.
  • Supporting the input of data into the CRGIS.
  • Conducting research on the archaeological aspects of farmsteads, which would complement the above-ground research for the agricultural context study.

Next: The PHAST and the PHURIOUS: The Third IUP Contract (2007-2012)

The PennDOT and IUP Partnership: A Personal History – VI (Conclusion)

Steady, Podner, Steady: The Fourth and Fifth IUP Contracts (2012-)

On February 10, 2012, PennDOT and IUP renewed the partnership with another 5-year MOU (20120112).  In most ways, this MOU mimicked previous ones in terms of scope, but added more formally a geomorphology component and a geophysical testing component.  The geomorphology component was added to provide additional flexibility in choice of geomorphologist, in particular since Dr. Vento was particularly busy with PennDOT and other agency studies.  IUP agreed to add additional geomorphologists to the Agreement with subcontracts.  The geophysical component was new and rather exciting.  As a feature of IUP’s Anthropology program, faculty and staff had acquired both the machinery and skill to conduct magnetic resistivity, ground penetrating radar, and other remote surveying technology.  GPR was particularly useful for identifying cemetery situations and also buried historic archaeological foundations.  We at PennDOT would not have been able to maintain the equipment and skill set on our own.

For the five years of this MOU, the chief focus of activities was on the PHAST program, geomorphological studies, and winding up the collections backlog.  This period of the MOU was one of refinement and adjustment rather than innovation, as we perfected the PHAST program and managed the geomorphological assignments. The curation backlog was largely completed by 2012, but inevitably we kept uncovering old collections that had been missed in the original survey of outstanding collections.  As our goal was to completely bring the older collections up to date and submitted to the State Museum, we continued to make adjustments in task assignments, largely wrapping up activities in 2013.  Later we discovered that the Blue Route Collections, from the 1980s were still not processed. It was a large collection and we have since managed to put our arms around that problem working with Engineering District 6-0.

In 2017, we renewed the MOU again for another 5 years (MOU 201721), largely keeping the same terms and goals as MOU 20120112. This is the current MOU with IUP as of this writing (2019).  As with the previous MOU, the current MOU is also one of adjustment and refinement on the tasks assigned, which are primarily the PHAST program and geomorphological studies.  The Byways to the Past Conference, in its current form as part of the Statewide Heritage Conference, has been taken over by Preservation Pennsylvania, and is no longer a responsibility of IUP.  The collections backlog program – it is worthy of the title “program” given the length of time it lasted and the total number of collections processed – had been concluded.  Byways to the Past booklets are continuing to be published, and IUP remains the publisher of last resort, after first having the consultant be responsible for printing, and then considering PennDOT’s Graphic Services Unit to complete the printing. The CD series is coming to a close, as technological advances now permit these reports to be housed within the CRGIS as downloads.  The IUP Agreement continues to be available for special assignments and is used for such. In addition, PennDOT’s cultural resources unit continues to send a representative to IUP annually to participate in the review of the MA program.

Lessons Learned from this Partnership

I will be participating in a roundtable on university partnerships at the Society for American Archaeology Meetings coming up in April.  It is fair to ask with the distance of time whether there is anything to be learned from this particular partnership over the last 20 years?  I had a front row seat at all of this and often was the individual making key decisions on strategy and direction, so you would think this would be easy.  It is not.  The simple route would be to create a totally revisionist history where each decision and step was brilliantly thought out in advance, with long-term strategic goals, inevitably ending up where we are today, gloriously successful.  

It didn’t happen that way.

Having a front-row seat doesn’t necessarily give you perspective.  Furthermore none of us were hovering over our heads thinking about what we were thinking. We kept trying things until something worked, but didn’t spend time conducting a post-mortem analysis.  With the perspective of 20 years, I may be able to reconstruct what I felt and what I was thinking, but that doesn’t necessarily get you to interpretation and understanding.  I can more or less spell out the emic in this partnership game, but I may or may not be able to get to the etic, where we could more broadly talk about generalizations that might be applied to any partnership. Here goes.

First, just what is a partnership?  We can start with Merriam-Webster:

1the state of being a partner PARTICIPATION//scientists working in partnership with each other

2aa legal relation existing between two or more persons contractually associated as joint principals in a business //began a legal partnership with his uncle

bthe persons joined together in a partnership //the partnership computes its net income … in a manner similar to  that of an individual— J. K. Lasser

3a relationship resembling a legal partnership and usually involving close cooperation between parties having specified and joint rights and responsibilities //The band has maintained a successful partnership for 10 years.

That’s what I love about dictionary definitions. They always throw you deeper into the thicket.  Just what is a partner?

1:    archaic  one that shares PARTAKER

2aone associated with another especially in an action ASSOCIATECOLLEAGUE//our military partners throughout the world

beither of two persons who dance together

cone of two or more persons who play together in a game against an opposing side //partners in card games

da person with whom one shares an intimate relationship one member of a couple //Evan and his partner are going on a Caribbean cruise.

3a member of a partnership especially in a business // partners in a law firm also  such membership

4: one of the heavy timbers that strengthen a ship’s deck to support a mast —usually used in plural

Now, we’re getting somewhere. I actually like all of these definitions and I think all are relevant.  A partnership is a sharing relationship.  Each party needs to feel that it is getting something out of the partnership.  Partnerships are like a dance or a game, which is to say that they are not static relationships.  Partnerships are always in motion because nothing ever stays constant.  Working in state government, I also think of partnerships as playing against an opposing side, trying to make something work against the inertia of governmental mediocrity.  Even definition 4 is relevant. Partnerships need to do things, whether it is to support a mast so the ship can sail, or support a program so it can fulfill its mission.

Partnerships solve problems. Yes, the first rule of seeking a partnership is that one is needed to solve a specific problem.  Not all problems are solved with a partnership, but a partnership in search of a problem is in trouble out of the gate.  Sometimes the problem is concrete, such as how to staff a new program. Sometimes the problem is more abstract, such as building credibility in the larger preservation community.  It can even be the need for constant improvement.  Edward Deming is the founder of the Total Quality Movement, which in the 1950’s brought Japanese manufacturing back into prominence, and has influenced business thinking in the US for decades. His 14 points are worth restating here, and they were on my cubicle wall during my entire career at PennDOT:

  1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.  
  2. Adopt the new philosophy. 
  3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place. 
  4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust. 
  5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs. 
  6. Institute training on the job. 
  7. Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. 
  8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company. 
  9. Break down barriers between departments.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force. 
  11. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality. 
  12. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective. 
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement. 
  14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job. 

Number 5 is central to developing partnerships:  Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costsThe need for quality improvement cannot be achieved only by relying on internal resources in the work unit.  I would argue that you cannot substantially improve a process or overall quality without engaging in partnerships.  

In government, there is a natural tendency to stay in our lanes, to stay in our silos.  Government is built for inertia.  My first problem was that I couldn’t stand the notion of staying in the work situation outlined in Part I of the series.  The very first partnerships formed in cultural resources were with the SHPO, in the form of a programmatic agreement to move us past the shoveling of dubious documents to another desk for approvals.  In 1997, we had a problem with not having long-term staffing to support our newly minted programmatic agreement.   We thought that IUP had the best ability to create staff, and as a university had the stability to honor a long-term commitment.

Seek best fit through mutual benefit.  As clichéd as it may be, you can’t have a partnership without partners, but some partners are better than others. In approaching potential partners, it was necessary to visualize how the partnership would benefit them and to communicate that vision.  Otherwise, why would the other party give you the time of day?  IUP also had a problem to solve.  They are a state agency and have a mission to provide assistance to other state agencies.  They need to be relevant in today’s world, not just the Academy.  Evidence of that need was the existence of Archaeological Services.

Partnerships take time to build.  Our first meeting with IUP was in the Fall of 1997. The first MOU was executed May, 1999, almost 2 years later.  Actually that was rather fast.  Other partnerships we had usually took 3 years.  Never expect to be able to enter into a partnership (at least not a meaningful one) quickly.  Think about it.  You have two different institutions, each with its own management and administration, rules, lawyers, etc.  Each institution has to move outside of its comfort zone, and regardless of how often or how loud management says it is 100% behind innovation or whatever the current best new thing is, they usually don’t mean it.   After going through Graduate School and working with IUP and other universities for nearly 40 years, I can safely say that universities are every bit as bureaucratic and administratively difficult as PennDOT.  The only difference seems to be in the mission.  At any number of occasions, I could have legitimately given up on the partnership as being simply too hard to execute.  So could Bev Chiarulli, Phil Neusius, and the Anthropology Department.  Commitment, constancy of purpose, and useful streaks of stubbornness brought us through.

Real partnerships add value. In building a partnership, we had to find a way to make 1 + 1 = 3, to create value out of the partnership that transcended the simple transactional nature of the MOU.  At first, the added value was quite abstract, and the transactional nature of the MOU was right in front of us.  Find and rent us QPs and we will pay you.  As we crafted the MOU though, we made sure that the terms would allow us to engage in other mutually beneficial activities.  One of the first was the joint Byways to the Past Conference held in 2000 on the IUP campus in the newly built Eberly Business School facilities. Benefits accrued to PennDOT for hosting a transportation conference, but also to IUP for same. In addition, IUP’s Anthropology Department could show to the Dean and Administration that it was working to serve another state agency, bringing in a little money as well, and furthering IUP’s educational mission.

The Second MOU, sans QPs, also created value, especially in the conduct of the legacy archeological collections project.  This employed IUP students giving them hands on experience working with collections. It kept IUP’s lab busy, and Archaeological Services billable and important.  PennDOT got necessary work completed at a fraction of the cost we would have incurred had we gone the private consultant route.  Again, 1 + 1 = 3.  This was repeated with the Third MOU that brought geomorphological services and PHAST to the table, and which was continued into the Fourth and current MOUs.

Partnerships transcend a business relationship. In building a partnership, it was important to find a way to let both partners feel that they were coming out ahead in the arrangement.   In building and maintaining any relationship, whether it be a marriage or a partnership between two agencies, the same key ingredients appear over and over again: honesty, trust, communication, commitment.  This is not surprising nor should it be.  With IUP, we met early and often, exchanged a lot of phone calls and e-mails. We wrote out drafts of terms for the MOU and other supporting documents.  Each of us had to work our management to sell the concept and get them on board.  

Once the partnership was in place, it required care and maintenance.  When IUP established a Master’s of Applied Archaeology Program, they invited us to sit on an advisory board to guide the program.  We jumped at the chance and never missed a meeting.  When I retired I made sure that there was someone in PennDOT who could continue.  When we did task assignments, sometimes there was advance coordination to check to see what IUP could manage within their schedule.  We wanted the assignments to be realistic and not onerous, a constraint we never applied to our engineering consultants.  When we were holding Byways Conferences, there was also intense coordination on the program, on logistics.  When the PHAST program was initiated, we reserved internships for IUP students, and we made sure that IUP students were considered for other internships in Harrisburg.  We cowrote press releases when good things happened and made sure to give IUP as much credit on any success as we could manage.

Partnerships require adaptation.  Over time, the partnership has evolved and should continue to do so.  The types of ventures we undertook changed over time as our mutual needs and abilities changed.  Our first MOU was for staff, plus some extras. Without the need for staff, the MOU evolved into other mutually beneficial initiatives, such as the legacy archaeological collection project.  As geomorphology became are more important tool in our project studies, we managed to work that into the MOUs.  Thankfully, we had the time to process changing circumstances and make necessary adjustments.

Timing and opportunity matters.  Guy Raz has a podcast on public radio called “How I Built This, with various entrepreneurs being interviewed on how they built their businesses.  One of the best questions comes at the end, when Guy Raz asks each one how much of their success was based on skill and work and how much on luck. The answers are fascinating.  I think the same question can be asked here.  

I know for a fact that my staff and I and Bev Chiarulli, Phil Neusius, and folks at the Anthropology Department worked very hard over the years to build this partnership and to sustain it.  But I also know that a lot of people in PennDOT and in other cultural resources units also work equally hard or harder.  And I consider myself a good salesman, but there are also many who communicate as well or better.  Hard work alone doesn’t result in a partnership.  You could say that luck also played a part, but what I would call luck is having the door open at times.  When I came to PennDOT, my supervisors and managers, including Wayne Kober and Dan Accurti, were receptive to change and new ideas.  It was most visible with the EMS re-engineering, where management, especially M.G. Patel, the Chief Engineer, actually sought out useful change.  Our timing was excellent, as we had just executed the new programmatic agreement and were looking for ways to implement it.  

You don’t get a chance to pick your managers or the timing of these agency-wide initiatives, but you also have to recognize when the opportunity exists and that the door is open.  As stated earlier, working in government means that there is always a Department-wide initiative to increase productivity.  Some are serious, but most are flavor-of-the month management speak. In an advanced seminar, we could teach you tools on how to tell the difference, but let it suffice that it is critical to know the difference before investing the work that would be required to actually produce a partnership.

Lefty Gomez once said, “I’d rather be lucky than good.” He also said his success was due to clean living and a fast outfield.  So to my fast outfield of Kula, Russell, and Baker, I close with a sincere thank you.

The PennDOT and IUP Partnership: A Personal History – III

Part III – And Away We Go: The First IUP Contract (1999-2002)

In the summer and fall of 1997, we began a series of outreach efforts with various Pennsylvania universities.  Other than IUP, none (and I include our land grant university Penn State in that none) were interested in partnering with us on this initiative.  On October 29, 1997, we met with a contingent from IUP which included Dr. Beverly (Mitchum) Chiarulli from Archaeological Services and Dr. Phil Neusius from the Department of Anthropology, Dr. Ginger Brown, the Associate Dean for Research for the Graduate School, and Evelyn Landon from the Institute for Research and Community Service.  Of particular interest was the 10-year track record of Archaeological Services that had provided archaeological studies and research to other Federal and State agencies. Archaeological Services was not an academic department but under Research and Community Services. Clearly, IUP knew how to work with other agencies. One final fact favored IUP. As state agencies, IUP and PennDOT could enter into memorandums of understanding without competitive bidding and with a relatively simple signature and legal review process, taking between 6-10 weeks from start to finish.  A sole-source or bid contract of comparable size and complexity would take anywhere from 1-2 years.

In this and other meetings through the winter of 1997-1998, we hammered out the framework for an interagency agreement, in which IUP would provide 8 archaeologists and architectural historians to implement our PA for a period of 5 years, renewable.  Concurrently, in the fall of 1997, we were also meeting with selected Engineering Districts to float the idea of regionalizing the positions, putting them in the Engineering Districts instead of Central Office BEQ.  Based on our experience with District 4-0 and Jamie McIntyre, it appeared that better use of the QPs could be made in the Engineering Districts, working side-by-side with the environmental team and design team. This was one of the other recommendations coming out of the EMS Re-engineering and went hand-in-hand with provisioning staff. As they say in Texas, “Go big or go home.”

By February, 1998, we had developed a Memorandum of Understanding between PennDOT and IUP which would add 9 staff to the program, augmenting the existing complement of 6 (Beckerman, Kula, McIntyre, Spohn, Anthony, and an architectural historian vacancy ultimately filled by Kara Russell). These 15 staff would be spread over 5 service regions and Central Office, but all field staff would be hosted by an Engineering District.  BEQ shifted its role from the fount of all things cultural to the main support unit, providing quality assurance, technology transfer, training, and outreach to the public.  You will notice the discussions over the winter of 1997-1998 were for 8 additional staff, but that the MOU presented to upper management was for 9.  One of the better ideas from Wayne Kober was to add one more staff member to the Agreement. This one position was not designated for direct project delivery, but for public outreach and other duties as assigned.

This MOU was presented in February to our upper management for funding and we received the go ahead to proceed. However, in March we were challenged by the Union representing cultural resources staff at PennDOT and at PHMC, the Federal of State Cultural and Educational Professionals (FOSCEP).  The grounds of the objection were twofold:

  1.  The agreement was not cost effective, as compared with hiring state employees within the Department.
  2. The work to be performed is traditional FOSCEP bargaining unit work, and should not be performed by another bargaining unit

Despite the fact that we were going to be utilizing state employees, and replacing consultants with state employees, apparently they were the wrong state employees, i.e., represented by a rival bargaining unit. Go figure.

By December, the issues with FOSCEP had been worked out. The MOU calling for 9 IUP positions was scaled back to 5 positions. Concurrently, the Department made a commitment to hire 4 positions initially, and then at the end of 3 years, absorb the 5 IUP hires into the Department, i.e., into FOSCEP.  On May 27, 1999, the 3-year MOU was executed.  The first year’s estimated cost (July 1, 1999- June 30, 2000) was $362,000 with an approximately equivalent budget for each of the next two years.  The MOU would expire on May 27, 2002 and the commitment to FOSCEP would expire on August 13thof the same year.  The initial hires by IUP were Scott Shaffer, Bruce Manzano, Jonathan Daily, Matt Hamel, and Joe Baker.  The first PennDOT hires under this arrangement were Monica Harrower, Kevin Simons, Zephreny Parmenter, and Joe Verbka.  The hiring process by IUP was much smoother than our PennDOT Bureau of State Employment procedures and they were on-board much more quickly.

In addition to the 5 hires, and associated technical and computer support, IUP also agreed to provide training on archaeology and historic preservation to all cultural resources staff in PennDOT, and to sponsor lectures, conferences, symposia, and other educational outreach activities related to cultural resources.  The first Byways to the PastConference was held at IUP at Eberly Hall on March 8-9, 2000 and co-sponsored by IUP, PennDOT, and also FHWA and the Turnpike Commission.  It focused on the intersection between transportation and historic preservation. Topics were wide-ranging as noted in the programs for the Byways Conference in Years 1 and 2:

First Byways to the Past – 2000

Archaeology

Varna Boyd (Greenhorne & O’Mara, Inc.) – The U.S. 219 Meyersdale Bypass Project: Contributions to the study of Monongahela Culture 

Gary Coppock (Heberling Associates, Inc.) – The Case of the Missing Hamlet: An inquiry into settlement, subsistence, and sociopolitical organization in the Upper Casselman Valley ca. AD 500-900 

Thomas C. East (Skelly and Loy, Inc.) – The Wiser Site: A Late Archaic stone bead manufacturing site in Central Pennsylvania 

Peter E. Siegel (John Milner Associates, Inc.) – The Oberly Island Site: Prehistoric Late Archaic/Late Woodland adaptations in the Lower Lehigh Valley 

Albert T. Vish (Skelly and Loy, Inc.) – The Tunkhannock Bypass: Recreating prehistory at the Harding Flat site 

Robert Wall and Hope Luhman (The Louis Berger Group, Inc). – Four Thousand Years of Tioga County Prehistory: The Mansfield Bridge site excavations 

Historic/Industrial Archaeology

Richard Affleck (URS Greiner Woodward Clyde) – At the Sign of the King of Prussia: Archaeology at the King of Prussia Inn, Montgomery County 

Ken Basalik and Jamie McIntyre (CHRS, PennDOT District 4-0) – The Lackawanna Valley Industrial Highway: A view from the anthracite fields Melissa Diamanti (Archaeological and Historical Consultants, Inc.) 

Melissa Diamanti (Archaeological and Historical Consultants, Inc.) – Weighing in on the Union Canal 

Vickie Kunkle (Gibson Thomas) – A Covered Bridge in Indiana County 

Richard Meyer (John Milner Associates, Inc.) – App’s Mill and the Replacement of Camelback Bridge, Penn’s Creek, Snyder County, PA 

Tom Riester (Mackin Engineering Company) – Rehabilitation of the Historic Smithfield Bridge 

Historic Preservation Projects and the Public 

Christine Davis (Christine Davis Consultants) – ISTEA & the Herr’s Island Bridge: Connecting an award-winning brownfield 

Eric Deloney (National Park Service) – HAER’s Historic Roads and Bridges Program 

Kevin Patrick (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) – Safe Highways to History: Interagency cooperation in the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor 

Ben Resnick and Diane B Landers (GAI Consultants, Inc.) – Erie Coastal Predictive Model 

Second Byways to the Past – 2001

Archaeology

Richard B. Duncan (Skelly and Loy, Inc) – Sites Are Where You Find Them: The Central Susquehanna Valley Archaeological Site Predictive Model 

Thomas R. Lewis (CHRS, Inc.) – The History of a Floodplain: The Pennsylvania Turnpike Bridge over Yellow Breeches Creek 

Patricia Miller (KCI Technologies, Inc) – A Report on the First Pennsylvanians: A stratified Paleo-Indian site in Liverpool, Perry County 

Paul Raber (Heberling Associates) – Looking Under a Rock: The excavation of Mykut Rockshelter 

Historical/ Industrial Archaeology

Amy Fanz (A.D. Marble & Company) – Industrial Archaeology on Moshannon Creek: The Phillipsburg Tannery site 

Barbara J. Shaffer (McCormick, Taylor & Associates, Inc.) – Food, Drink and Rest Next to the Pennsylvania Canal: Archaeological investigations at Gayman’s Tavern 

Historic Preservation

Thomas E. Boothby (Pennsylvania State University) – The State of the Art of Stone Bridges 

J. Dain Davis (PennDOT Engineering District 9-0) – Caring for Covered Bridges: District 9-0’s Covered Bridge Management Program 

Rick Ortega (Ortega Consulting) – Moving the King of Prussia Inn

Patricia Remy and David Anthony (PennDOT District 11-0) – A Delicate Balance: The story of St. Nicholas Church

Public Outreach and Heritage Tourism 

Brenda Barrett (National Park Service) – Byways to the Past: Heritage tourism and transportation networks 

Matt Hamel (PennDOT District 3-0) – The Bridges of Lycoming County: Rehabilitation of a Lattice Truss Bridge in the Pine Creek Valley

Robert H. Hosking Jr. (McCormick, Taylor & Associates, Inc.) – Floating into the Past: A transportation enhancement project at Hugh Moore Park 

David H. Miller (Society for the Preservation of the Duquesne Heights Incline) – Going Up: The transportation enhancement project at the Duquesne Incline 

Randy Cooley (Westsylvania Heritage Corporation) – Westsylvania and the Path of Progress: Regional heritage tourism development 

Hope Luhman (Louis BergerGroup, Inc) – Scouting for Lessons: The Merit Badge Program at Site 36TI116 

Kevin Patrick (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) – The National Lincoln Highway Study Act: What to do with a heritage corridor the size of a nation? 

Ben Resnick and Douglas H. MacDonald (GAI Consultants, Inc.) – The Coverts Crossing Project: A public outreach model 

Deborah Scherkoske (Skelly and Loy, Inc.) – Spanning the Yards: A bridge replacement and public history program at the Enola Yards 

Transportation Projects and Historic Preservation – Roundtable

Michael Ryan (PennDOT) – An Introduction 

Dean Schreiber (PennDOT, Bureau of Design) – Part One 

Earl Neiderhiser (PennDOT District 9-0) – Part Two

Elizabeth Merritt (National Trust for Historic Preservation) – The Big Picture

Planning and Implementing Historic Preservation Projects 

Ira Beckerman (PennDOT Bureau of Environmental Quality) – Historic Preservation at Transportation Agencies: The CRM Program at PennDOT 

M. Lynn Bortel (Federal Highway Administration) – Some Pennsylvania Issues: The FHWA and historic preservation 

Dan Deibler (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission) – The SHPO’s Perspective 

Pat Foltz (Preservation Pennsylvania) – Byways to the Future: Some suggestions for preservation-sensitive transportation projects in Pennsylvania 

William Hunter (Heberling Associates) – Reforming the Place of Historic Preservation in Ohio’s Transportation Development Program 

Thomas A. Kotay (PennDOT, Center for Program Development and Management) – Getting Preservation Issues on the Drawing Board: The 12-year plan 

Perhaps the highlight of the 2ndYear’s Conference was witnessing lunch between Mike Ryan, our Deputy Secretary in charge of Highway Administration, and Betsy Merritt, who was a lead attorney for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a group that had been known to sue us in the past.  They were engaged in a congenial conversation over things other than a particular project. If for no other reason that getting two sides to break bread in a neutral setting, the Conference was a success.

For the first eight years of this and subsequent MOUs, IUP hosted the Byways to the Past Conference at IUP.

Next: Legacy Collections without End: The Second IUP Contract (2002-2007)

The PennDOT and IUP Partnership: A Personal History -II

Part II – Business Process Re-Engineering and the District-Based Teams

By the spring of 1997, some of the weaknesses of the BEQ-based QP teams were beginning to show.  As noted above, there was difficulty in scheduling for scoping field views. The lack of communication with Project Managers and Environmental Managers limited trust.  The QPs ability to have input into the creation of design scopes of work was also constrained, as was the review of consultants doing the work prior to their being selected for a consulting contract.  Furthermore, the Adverse Interest Act put constraints on the types of projects our consultants could oversee.  By contrast Jamie McIntyre could cut through those problems and work much more closely with the Environmental Unit and Project Managers.  She was in the District, and as a creature of the District, was de facto part of the team.  The archaeology portion of Section 106 worked better in District 4-0 than elsewhere.

That spring, the Department rolled out a large initiative under the initials EMS (Engineering Management System), which suggested that each work unit re-engineer itself to improve productivity and to try to work the golden triangle of Faster, Betters, and Cheaper.  Our kick-off meeting was held April 11, 1997. The goals of our group were to:

  • Save the Districts time for smaller projects
  • Better value for our money
  • Take the guess work out
  • Preserve PA historic resources
  • Streamline the process
  • Cut design time researching historic resources
  • Improve predictability

Our cultural resources team had some advantages coming into this effort, as we had a newly minted PA, and established a team-based approach to Section 106, pairing above-ground specialists with below-ground specialists.  The re-engineering effort became a lab for additional ideas and suggested process improvements.

Although the final EMS recommendations were far-ranging and ambitious, the most important recommendation was to solidify staffing for the QPs.  Five options were developed, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Hire Qualified Professionals– In this scenario, all needed QPs would be hired by PennDOT.  This was clearly the cheapest option from a salary perspective. All QPs could perform all needed duties, including preparing and review proposals, and had the highest potential for the long-term.  The disadvantages were that the existing civil service classifications were not a good fit (see museum curators, above), the salary range might not attract the best candidates, and most importantly, it would require shifting complement within PennDOT.  Shifting complement is a kind restatement of stealing vacancies from other units. It doesn’t make you popular, either.

Use consultants– We had been using consultants and in this option, we would continue to do so, filling all needed positions.  We would be able to specify the skill levels we needed, and presumably we could get them on task faster. Also, as our needs changed, we could flexibly add or subtract consultants.  On the downside, it was the most expensive option (overhead and profit could multiply salaries by 2.5x), did not address the issue with the Adverse Interest Act, and consultants could not perform all of the needed duties, such as reviewing contract proposals.  In addition, there was a concern that consultants generally like to please their clients (us) and might make findings that unduly favor PennDOT, rather than making cold objective decisions.

Hire PHMC staff– In this option, we would enter into an interagency agreement with the SHPO to have them hire and dedicate staff to PennDOT projects.  Some states already used this model.  The SHPO could use their own PHMC classifications; it would not burden PennDOT complement; and, there was the potential for an instant sign-off from the field.  Unfortunately, this option would not address a key Programmatic Agreement goal of increasing delegation of responsibility to the Department, instead regressing back to the old methods of pressing the SHPO for sign-off.

Hire University CRM Staff– Several DOTs had already established partnerships with universities, although in each case it was to provide field archaeological studies.  Using a university in a slightly different way to provide QPs was conceivable, although we were more likely to find archaeologists than architectural historians on staff. This also had the potential to be a long-standing arrangement with the further advantage that being independent of both PennDOT and the SHPO, QPs could make independent judgments.  The question was whether there were any universities in Pennsylvania that would be in a position to enter into such an arrangement.

Retrain PennDOT Staff– This final option would have existing PennDOT staff trained as QPs.  While it would support the central EMS concept of doing our own work, and did not require additional complement, it would have required those individuals to undertake a 3-5 year program of education and training to meet the Secretary of Interior Standards for professional archaeologist and architectural historian that the PA called for.  Furthermore, it was suspected if we did retrain and delegate staff (probably not engineers) as QPs, they would most likely leave the Department for better paying jobs elsewhere, plying their newly acquired specialies.

At a July 23, 1997 presentation of our EMS Re-engineering to upper management at PennDOT, we received approval to move forward with the option to hire university CRM Staff.

Next:Part III – And Away We Go: The First IUP Contract (1999-2002)

The PennDOT and IUP Partnership: A Personal History – In Six Parts

Part I

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the cultural resources partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP).  The partnership has served both agencies and over the years have provided staffing to PennDOT, helped move legacy archaeological collections toward curation, hosted conferences, launched and sustained a publication series, trained a generation of students in cultural resources management, and otherwise served as an exemplar to all state agencies in how they can play well together for mutual benefit.  This is that story, as I see it.  Please join me over the next several weeks.

The Bad Old Days

In 1993, I joined PennDOT after a brief career managing the archaeology program at the Maryland State Highway Administration.  I joined a small cultural resources unit in the newly formed Bureau of Environmental Quality, my coworkers being Deborah Suciu Smith, Chris Kula, and Dick Weeden.  The Bureau was led by Wayne Kober, who had formed it only a few years earlier.  In 1993, District 4-0 (based out of Dunmore, near Wilkes-Barre) also hired an archaeologist, Jamie McIntyre.  Chris, Jamie, and I were hired as Museum Curators, Archaeologist II, under the State Civil Service Classification.  In my 26 years at PennDOT, I never did see a PennDOT museum, nor did I every curate any collection other than pencils and compact discs. Go figure.  For a brief period, from 1993 until June, 1994, we worked in the old Transportation and Safety Building on the site where the current Keystone Building resides.  After the 1994 fire, we were temporarily housed then returned to the T&S building, until it was found unfit for habitation. We then operated out of a converted parking garage at Forum Place for about 4 years until in 2000 we moved into the Keystone facility.

When I joined BEQ, the National Historic Preservation Act was 27 years old and PennDOT had been conducting archaeological studies for about half as long.  The Bureau for Historic Preservation, i.e., the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), was housed in the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and was led by Brenda Barrett.  We were aware of the Federal Highway Administration, but in those days, FHWA was relatively disengaged with the day to day activities of the environmental unit.  Our day to day activities were of one of two flavors.  For smaller projects, PennDOT submitted a Preliminary Cultural Resource Review Form (PCRRF) to the SHPO for their sign-off.  Usually, the PCRRF was stapled to a 10 to 30-page report describing the project and potential non-effects the project would have on historic resources.  Our job was to conduct a quality control check on the package and shepherd it across the plaza to the State Museum, in which the SHPO offices were housed.  The second task we had was to manage report reviews of historic resource studies.  PennDOT project managers whose projects were likely to affect historic resources had the design consultant and their subconsultants prepare any necessary studies, i.e., historic resource surveys, criteria of effect reports, Phase I and II archaeological surveys, etc.  As these studies came into BEQ, they were assigned to one of a pool of management consultants who actually reviewed the reports and determined whether they were sufficient to hand off to the SHPO for their approval and sign-off.  Our job was to manage the management consultants and act as intermediaries between the management consultants and the engineers in the Highway Quality Assurance Division, who would draft and send the cover letters to the SHPO.  Given the pace of activities and the rate at which reports came into BEQ, it was a rare event when one of us would actually read the reports being sent over.  Most of the time we conducted the quality control on the comments prepared by the management consultants.  Even as I remember this process and write about it here, I must assure the reader that what I have presented was an oversimplification of the process, having left several intermediate steps out.

By mutual agreement between BEQ and SHPO, the deadline for approval or comment on the submitted reports was 60 days, so a third task we had was to track review times religiously.  PCRRFs was an expedited process, whereby a submission would return a response in 10 days.  On average, the review times were around or just under 60 days, but as much as a third of the reports were reviewed in more than 60 days.  Large reports such as data recovery reports might take up to 6 months for a review, although that generally wasn’t a problem as we had usually received a conditional letter of approval based on an executive summary and a field visit, so the project could proceed into final design.  This being before 1999, archaeological impacts were treated as not adverse if there was a data recovery, so no agreement documents were required to finish NEPA and get to final design.  PCRRFs were usually returned in 10 days; however, a more than insignificant proportion of them required resubmission due to incomplete information, so the Section 106 review for even minor projects could take several months.

In some ways, tracking reports was simple.  It came into BEQ and was stamped in with a  date.  When it was taken over to SHPO, it was stamped in with a  date.  And when it was returned to BEQ with approval or comment, it was stamped with a date. Each document was tracked on a Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet and we had a management consultant whose only responsibility was to track the coming and going of reports.  The only problems with the system as designed was that reports were lost being mailed or shipped from the District offices to BEQ, reports were lost at SHPO, and there were frequent arguments over reports that were stamped in on a Friday afternoon or a day before a holiday.  This being the land of engineers, every day was counted and tracked.

Jamie was hired by the Engineering District and did not report to BEQ.  Her duties were largely archaeological, conducting studies and managing the archaeological contracts carried out under the Prime consultants for various PennDOT projects.  Although we coordinated on issues and policy, she and the District operated largely independently from Central Office, which was the general rule in PennDOT.  PennDOT was and remains a largely decentralized organization.

Pivoting

While our routine in the early 1990’s more resembled paper pushers than archaeologists or cultural resources managers, two initiatives were afoot that would change that.  First was the development in Pennsylvania for a Programmatic Agreement (PA) to cover Section 106 activities for FHWA/PennDOT.  Program-wide programmatic agreements had become popular in the late 1980’s as a tool to gain efficiencies on coordination with the SHPO and to provide predictability to agency programs.  At the time the gold standard was the Vermont VTRANS Programmatic Agreement that delegated a lot of responsibility to professionals working for the Vermont Agency of Transportation.  This was a far-ranging agreement that carried a lot of weight and was the envy of the transportation profession.  Every DOT wanted one, but the problem was that Vermont was and is considered a “toy state” with a miniscule program and a very strong preservation ethic amongst it citizens.  PennDOT was the 5th largest transportation program in the country, and it was unclear whether a Vermont-flavored PA could be executed here.

Apparently, it could.  On December 11, 1996 a statewide programmatic agreement covering “minor” transportation projects was executed between FHWA, PennDOT, and the SHPO.  It was limited insofar as it did not cover projects with adverse effects and was limited to categorical exclusion level projects under NEPA.  Still, it represented a leap forward and covered a large share of the program.  The key features in this PA were:

  1. It established a class of activities that could be excluded from further Section 106 consultation by the nature of the activity.  They were small enough to be exempted.
  2. It created a class of PennDOT staff who could make exemptions under the PA, but who weren’t historic preservation specialists.  The class required training and oversight, but were delegated to make exemptions, as District Designees.
  3. It put the responsibility for making findings of eligibility and effect squarely back on to the agency, with PennDOT acting as surrogate for FHWA.  This is what the law intended and now it was going to be the responsibility of PennDOT to own the program and not shrug its shoulders, hand the decision to the SHPO, and then get angry.
  4. Finally, it created a class of historic preservation professional that were delegated to make findings of eligibility and effect on behalf of PennDOT and FHWA.  These Qualified Professionals (QP’s, or kewpies, as sometimes noted) were not SHPO staff, but PennDOT staff and its consultants.

Concurrent with the development of the PA (which actually took three years between proposal and execution) was the evolution of thinking regarding how and where these QPs would be used once a PA was in place.  Ultimately, the line of thinking resulted in a district-based team concept, with an archaeologist and architectural historian being placed in neighboring Engineering Districts and working together as a team closely with the design team and the environmental unit in the District. 

Getting from status quo to District-based teams was not a straight line by any means, but I would like to try to recreate path we followed.  As noted above, a central premise of the PA was that PennDOT would be providing qualified professionals to implement the Agreement, making findings of eligibility and effect.  First question: should these QPs be Department hires, consultants, or something else?  Second question: where should they be based?  Third question: to whom should they report?

As the PA was moving forward and toward signature and execution, PennDOT had to make decisions on how to implement, i.e., staff the Agreement.  In 1996, available Department staff included myself, Chris Kula, and Jamie McIntyre.  We were used to working with management consultants for the previous three years and knew their capabilities, and there was no way that the three of us could cover the Department, not including the fact that none of us were architectural historians.  As a matter of practicality, we would be relying heavily on consultants to augment Department staff.

The initial iteration on implementation paired an archaeologist and an architectural historian with each District.  Archeologists Jamie McIntyre, Chris Kula, Barb (Gudel) Shaffer, and Rod Brown were matched up with Jerry Clouse and Sue Peters on the above-ground side. Our management consultants were tasked with finding a third architectural historian, but through 1996, had been unable to do so.  By November 1996, three teams had been established to cover 11 engineering Districts, with an expectation that the third architectural historian would be provided by our management consultants.  At this point, other than Jamie McIntyre working out of District 4-0, there was no expectation that any of the teams would be District-based, as all of the QPs other than Jamie were coming out of Harrisburg.  Later on, District 6-0 (King of Prussia, near Philadelphia) hired Catherine Spohn in 1997 to serve as their archaeologist for projects in District 6-0.  In 1998, BEQ hired David Anthony to be based in Pittsburgh and be a staff architectural historian that would service the western Engineering Districts.  However, in 1996 and 1997, the PA was implemented largely with Harrisburg staff. 

Operationally, it wasn’t elegant.  PennDOT was a decentralized agency, with environmental review, design, and project delivery coming from each Engineering District.  Although BEQ was its own Bureau and reported directly to the Chief Engineer, each Engineering District was autonomous and also reported to the Chief Engineer, so that BEQ had no direct authority over the Environmental Managers or Project Managers in any District.  Our teams did review technical reports produced by consultants and submitted by the Districts to Central Office for coordination with the SHPO.  So at the beginning, the teams were intermediary between the project managers and the SHPO.  One implicit premise of the PA was that cultural resources expertise would be provided at the start of the project, which was the scoping field view.  To the degree possible, the teams travelled to each Engineering District to participate in these scoping field views and to provide input on what types of studies were needed going forward in design.  Initially this did not work well, as Project Managers were accustomed to establishing the scopes of work and handing the cultural resources off to the prime or sub consultant for completion.  More often than not, that meant cultural resources consultants were handed a soup-to-nuts list of studies to complete, with the assumption that a scattershot approach would not bog down the process.  It also meant that the cultural resources teams often were handed completed reports for work that in their opinions were not needed.  This created more than a little conflict.

As a consequence of the creation of the cultural resources teams, gradually Environmental Managers and Project Managers began to rely on their expertise, particularly when they were able to expedite the project by getting to an effect finding more quickly.  Gradually, the quality of reports submitted to the SHPO for comment improved as well, reducing the number of resubmissions due to extensive comments.  Clearly, BEQ professional staff were beginning to gain hold of the process and to actually fulfill the terms of the PA, moving from paper pushers to adding value.  Given that most of the QPs were based in BEQ and worked closely together, it was also possible to effect training and changes in policy or procedure very quickly, which is a distinct advantage of having a closely working unit.  And in addition to the QPs, the ability for trained District Designees to exempt projects based on the types of activities, also reduced the overall workload.  Those Stipulation C exemptions (made under the PA) largely took over the role that PCRRFs had accomplished only a year before, but with much less paperwork and much more accuracy.

Next: Part II – Business Process Re-Engineering and the District-Based Teams

Moving PennDOT Forward

Rummaging through my files as I was researching a panel presentation on university partnerships, I stumbled across this missive from the last century, 1997 to be exact. Although it is an artifact from the time, I did find it interesting that some of the concepts presented are still relevant today, in particular the need to put creative mitigation under an overall strategic plan.  And although it has PennDOT firmly in the cross-hairs, I think it can apply to any agency that has Section 106 responsibilities. In that spirit, I am offering it for your amusement.  

Archaeology and Historic Resources – Creative Mitigation and Integrated Program Management

Under NEPA and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the Department of Transportation must ensure that its Federal-Aid projects consider their effects on historic sites and properties eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.  Similar requirements are found under the counterpart State History Code and Act 120. In the 30 years that these laws have been in effect, PennDOT has aggressively fulfilled its responsibilities and can take credit for much of what is known archaeologically in Pennsylvania, as well as numerous examples of sympathetic design with the historic built environment.

The Challenge Ahead

Despite a strong effort in compliance – reflected in the approximately 250 cultural resource studies conducted each year, dozens of archaeological and historical mitigation efforts, and expenditures of $6-12 million a year – there are some notable deficiencies.  Most archaeological sites are eligible for the National Register for the important information they contain, yet most archaeological mitigation projects, i.e. data recovery excavations, do not yield knowledge and understanding commensurate with the efforts made to gain that information. Second, valuable information that is gleaned from individual sites and individual projects is not being fully communicated to either the technical community or to the public at large. Third, a site-specific or project-specific focus on archaeological or historical resources generally fails to support a regional perspective or context, so that all of the history becomes local and does not inform the broader pattern.  Fourth, avoidance and mitigation have substituted for preservation, with the frequent result that extraordinary measures to avoid harm to important historic properties are negated by later non-PennDOT development activities.

The problems enumerated above are not PennDOT’s alone, but are reflective of National trends and concerns.  To a greater or lesser degree, all Federal agencies and their State Counterparts are being faced with the same challenges.  Most of these agencies have evolved responses to these challenges in the same incremental, methodical, and unreflective way.  Environmental compliance is the cost of doing business, in our case maintaining and improving the transportation system.  All costs above the minimum are excessive.  Because the project is the irreducible unit of measure and the only fiscal unit, cultural resource activities must be confined to the project.  Finally, all non-construction costs – design and environmental studies – are a potential embarrassment to be hidden from nosy legislators and constituents.

The Cultural Resource Management (CRM) field has not escaped criticism either. The 25 year-old promise of an enlightened public-private partnership to enrich our cultural heritage has gone unfulfilled.  Instead, the entire arena of Cultural Resources has become one of fragmented and competing interests: academic researchers, preservationists, CRM firms, Native American Groups, local historical societies, State Historic Preservation Offices, the Agency, and the Agency’s own technical specialists and managers.  Academic archaeologists still ignore the reality that CRM funds virtually all archaeological work in the United States, instead training their students to become university professors for a shrinking teaching job market.  For-profit CRM firms complete synthetic archaeological or historical research as a non-profit activity, if at all, since compliance not research is the product paid for by clients.   Agency and SHPO staffs are usually locked into a zero-sum game of how much fieldwork is enough.   In this mix, the general public has been left out to sit on the sidelines, and, even if aware of the ensuing debates, left to ponder the relevance and value of CRM to society.

Climbing Out of the Box

PennDOT has an unprecedented opportunity to reflect on and rethink the status of CRM as it is currently implemented.  The upcoming re-engineering of cultural resources in May will necessarily lead to re-evaluations of processes, both internal and external. Efficiencies most certainly will be found, both in time saved and costs.  However, if the battle cry is “Better, faster, cheaper!” then there is a risk that only two parts will be addressed, unless there is a clear effort to make CRM betterwithin the Department.  In this context, better is not merely the outcome of faster and cheaper. “Better” can and must be an effort to address all of the above-listed  deficiencies.  Ironically, a single-minded focus just on a better CRM within PennDOT may be the surest and quickest path to a more cost effective program.

The Department must shift its thinking in two ways to accomplishing this re-engineering successfully.  First, PennDOT must embrace a new ethic of preservation, increased historical knowledge, and outreach, and abandon its current ethic of compliance, avoidance, and mitigation.  Second, PennDOT must embrace a program-wide perspective and abandon its project-by-project myopia.  The second shift in thinking is the tool to accomplish the first.

Deming astutely observed that you cannot improve what you do not measure.  In the current climate, PennDOT does measure compliance, avoidance, and mitigation, and success in a project is judged by how well these three are done.  However, these are short-sighted goals that are purely process focused.  Section 106 is a process, but to focus only on the process is to box ourselves into narrow thinking and miss the larger points.   We comply and consult.  We redesign to avoid historically important sites, only to lose these sites to fast-food restaurants and housing projects.  We mitigate by recordation, but the bridge is taken down and no one other than the preparer, the reviewer, and the SHPO will ever read the report or use the information.  We conduct a data recovery excavation, analyze the artifacts, write up the report, but the site is destroyed and few people other than a handful of experts understands what was learned or why.

It is time to start measuring what is important, instead of measuring process. Can we preserve historic resources, so that they will be there for our children and our children’s children to enjoy? Can our bottom line be increased understanding of our past, measurable as scientific knowledge?  And can we communicate this newly gained understanding, both to the research community and to the public at large, measured in heightened public awareness and interest in our past?  As a public agency, funded with public monies, dare we do otherwise?

Creative Mitigation: The Magic Bullet

In the current climate of thought, these goals are difficult if not impossible to reach.  PennDOT’s activities are inherently destructive and only rarely offer an opportunity for actual preservation within a particular project.  And, as described above, only the largest EISs offer any opportunity to broaden interpretation, and provide something back for the community, as a brochure, poster, or lecture.  However, if we can liberate our thinking from a project-specific basis to a program perspective, then much more is possible.   If mitigation need not be directly linked to the project impacts, then indeed it would be possible to incorporate off-site preservation actions into a project.  A mitigation to one historic property being destroyed might be the purchase of an easement on another that could be preserved.  A bridge removal on one location might be mitigated by rehabilitation of second bridge on a different location.  If we can break out of the box of project action/project mitigation, and can be flexible and creative in our interpretation of mitigation, then we can reach the goals of preservation, increased knowledge, and public outreach.

Can creative mitigation be done?  Specifically, is it permissible under Section 106 and will it be supported by the SHPO and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, both of whom would need to sanction this approach?  In the current National dialogue, there is every indication that they would.  In Pennsylvania, the US Army Corps of Engineers recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement with both the SHPO and the Advisory Council to mitigate impacts to archaeological sites on a Wyoming Valley Flood Control project by contributing to a Geographic Information System Database initiative.  The Advisory Council recently executed an Agreement with a Federal Agency that mitigated impacts by funding university student scholarships.  The door is clearly open for creative approaches to mitigation.

Integrated Program Management

Once we accept the premise of a creative and possibly off-site mitigation strategy, then CRM within PennDOT can no longer be managed at the project level. It must be managed at a program level.  This is simultaneously liberating and challenging.  It is liberating because the goal now is to find the mitigation appropriate to the effect, whether it be on-site, in-kind elsewhere, or something entirely creative and new.  It is challenging because without the constraint of project location on each mitigation activity, mitigation themes and locations can get redundant, duplicated, or established without consideration of their cumulative positive effects.  If creative mitigations are integrated and managed as a program, addressing the new ethics of preservation, knowledge, and outreach as the driving goals of the program, then the challenge can be met.

Integrated Program Management(IPM) is the key to successfully folding mitigation activities into CRM in an efficient manner.  Potential adverse effects to historic properties would be mitigated by actions falling under one or more of the goals of preservation, knowledge, or outreach.  In consultation with the SHPO, FHWA, and others, and appropriate strategy could be developed and implemented.  Traditional mitigation actions could be considered and may be appropriate; however, the options can be greatly expanded.  Instead of a data recovery excavation on a site that is only being partially impacted, perhaps the appropriate mitigation would be a synthesis and publication on the prehistory of the region.  An eligible bridge that is closed and structurally unsound might be replaced to AASHTO standards, but another bridge of the same type on the State system might be rehabilitated instead.  In lieu of routine consultation and evaluation of 3R and 4R projects in a District, the Department might fund a middle school teaching module on the history of transportation of the area.  This flexible approach does not preclude standard treatments, developed through a series of Programmatic Agreements. 

IPM offers three extremely valuable additional benefits.  Small mitigations can be grouped and leveraged to a greater benefit, be it for preservation, knowledge, or outreach.  IPM can be used to fill gaps.  Finally, and possibly of greatest interest to any re-engineering, IPM can be used to fuel the kind of applied research that can result in more efficient identification and evaluation efforts.  This last point was not lost on the Corps of Engineers in their Wyoming Valley mitigation commitment, insofar as they fully expect to reap the benefits of the GIS in years to come when determining the need for future surveys in their jurisdictional area.

Although IPM would be the management tool for PennDOT, it would be guided by a preservation plan.  Such a plan would define preservation, increased knowledge, and outreach goals, and set guidelines and measurement for them.  It might become a biennial planning document that would set forth more specific objectives that IPM would implement.   The statutory authority for a Federal Agency to establish such a plan is clearly set forth in Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act; however, few agencies other than the National Park Service and the US Army have utilized its full provisions.

Developing the Public and University Partners

In order for PennDOT to fully embrace a Creative Mitigation IPM Program, the Department must extend its partnerships beyond the traditional SHPO and FHWA ring. Pennsylvania’s Universities are uniquely positioned to synthesize the history and prehistory of the State, and to undertake the kinds of special analyses that bring greater understanding. The university is also the appropriate training ground for cultural resource professionals.  It may be possible to sustain existing programs or kick-start new programs at institutions that can break away from ivory tower thinking.  Were several universities to partner with PennDOT, they could expect a steady stream of data, student support (as internships or scholarships), and funding for applied research.  For public universities, an association with a State Agency makes these institutions relevant to the larger public, which can be translated into public support. In return, PennDOT could expect this data to be digested into historical knowledge at low cost, as well as a ready laboratory for methodological and technical experimentation.

The other partnership is with the public, both in the historical and preservation community and with the public at large.  PennDOT is not in the public history business, but can find partners who are.  The syntheses that are developed from CRM studies can and must be translated into plain English and presented to a public that is truly eager for its heritage. This outreach can take many forms, as readable summaries, exhibits, lectures, symposia, re-enactments, site reconstructions, Internet Web sites, radio and television programs, books, magazines, or CD ROM.  Preservation activities that include purchase of historic properties or easements will need to be assisted by local historical groups who have the infrastructure to manage, maintain, and interpret these properties.  In return, PennDOT can look beyond the legal and regulatory requirements of CRM, and point with pride to the intrinsic value of its activities.