Rural Agricultural Landscapes – Part III

What is the Resource being Affected?


As noted in the MPDF overview, “the full flowering of distinctive agricultural regions in Pennsylvania occurred only in the mid-19thcentury” (McMurry 2012a: 7) and that “the widespread transition to a relatively specialized monocrop or single-product system did not really take hold until after the Second World War in Pennsylvania” (p. 4). Fortunately, this century is well documented in maps, first with county atlases in the 19thcentury, followed by early USGS 15 minute and 7.5 minute topographic maps beginning at the end of the 19thcentury and early 20thcentury, and followed by rather detailed and frequent Department of Highways Type 10 maps beginning in the early 20thcentury and continuing today.  It should be axiomatic that earlier roads, and early, improved roads are indicators of principal roadways.  Invariably, investments in roads follows need, particularly when through local funding.  The dichotomy between earthen and improved roads, whether they are concrete, brick, macadamized, and even bituminous macadamized over chipped stone, can speak to whether the local communities considered any individual road important, or principal.  Furthermore, if the history of the Landscape is well known and the peak development of specific agricultural system is marked, then roads improved after that date might not be principal, even if they are within the period of significance.

Adams County 1916 Type 10 Map
Adams County 1916 Type 10 map legend and key
Adams County 1941 Type 10 map key

The upshot of this mapping exercise is that bridge crossings on principal roadways within the Landscape can be identified.  With a reasonable history of the Landscape, principal roadways to market can also be identified, and with them, the associated bridge crossings.  Crossings on principal roadways defined for the period of significance that still retain the integrity of location would be considered contributing,


It is anticipated that the types of abutments and/or piers that might be found within rural areas and Landscapes would be stone of local origin, stone quarried from outside the Landscape, or concrete. Stone of local origin, with vernacular construction techniques should be readily obvious on inspection and inspection of nearby stone buildings and structures.  Provided there are no significant later modifications that would substantially diminish the integrity of the substructures (from a NR perspective), then we should assume the substructure would be contributing to the Landscape. For concrete material or quarried stone from outside the Landscape, unless there are local design elements imposed, it would be reasonable to argue the substructure would not be contributing as it would not reflect the local workmanship, methods of construction, materials, stylistic influences, and vernacular forms.


As with the superstructure, the material of construction could be local or exotic.  The design could also be vernacular or state-standard. Again, the test of the superstructure would be whether the materials and construction reflect the local workmanship, methods of construction, materials, stylistic influences, and vernacular forms.  In most instances this would exclude superstructures undertaken by the Department of Highways after WWI (possibly earlier) that followed a state-standard design. The exception to this “rule” would be where a local authority within the Landscape authorized a locally funded and undertaken road and bridge program to improve movement of goods to market that positively relates to the evolutionary trajectory of the farm system in that region.

Practical Issues for the Transportation Historic Preservationist

How Do we Know We are in a Rural Historic Landscape?

More often than not, the transportation historic preservation specialist is working from a project perspective rather than a resource perspective.  It’s the nature of the game.  So what happens when the professional drives into the middle of a rural valley, passing farms, a grange, a cemetery, a Walmart, and a housing development along the way?  Reaching the bridge project, the professional does a 360 and sees all of the above within view.   Is the project in a rural historic landscape or not?  And is the bridge contributing to that rural historic landscape, if present?

In a number of instances, the consideration of a bridge as contributing/non-contributing is taken within a fully evaluated Landscape.  However, this may be the exception rather than the rule.  In the short term, some shorthand may need to be developed to reflect a minimum level of work to ascertain whether a Landscape is likely or not. Use of the MPDF will be helpful in that regard.  As suggested by the Pa SHPO, use of historic aerial mapping to determine levels of intrusion and loss of integrity may be one approach, but one that lacks an adequate historic context.

The longer-range solution might be to take all bridge projects on the Long Range Transportation Program and look for concentrations that may be in potential Landscapes; then prioritize those potential Landscapes for evaluation based on the number of upcoming projects.  Field views would augment research, with an on-the ground evaluation in the vicinity of the bridge project.  This way more bridges projects can be evaluated with less work.  Ultimately, a statewide effort along the lines of the Agricultural Context may be needed to assess potential rural historic districts statewide in some systematic manner.

Possible Tools

The above analysis leaves open the possibilities for numerous bridges in rural agricultural regions that might now be considered contributing to a rural historic landscape.  If a DOT were to treat these individually, then this could become a major impediment to a state’s bridge program.  Certainly in Pennsylvania, and I suspect in other states as well, the largest expansion of bridge building was in the first half of the 20thcentury.  Many of these bridges, which would be standard design concrete stringer bridges of modest length, would have reached their use life and in many cases would not be suitable candidates for rehabilitation, certainly not to SOI standards. Rather than treating Section 106 (and 4f) on a case by case basis, this class of action would be a good candidate for a programmatic approach.  To that end, I am adding a link to a sample programmatic agreement for bridges in rural historic landscapes.

Sample Section 106 Programmatic Agreement

For DOT’s, Section 106 is only part of the equation. There is also Section 4f. And if you don’t normally deal with 4f, I would strongly urge that you stop reading now and find something more useful for your time. For those of you who are involved with 4f, there is a potential glitch in the application of the Nationwide Programmatic 4f for Historic Bridges.  When the project does not use any historic resource other than the bridge itself and the bridge does contribute to a historic district, then the current Nationwide PA for Historic Bridges is the right tool for the right job.  However, if the project requires any right of way from any portion of the rural historic district/landscape that is contributing to the District as well as the bridge itself, then depending on which FHWA division you are in, you may be in a bind. Because the Nationwide PA for Historic Bridges only covers the bridge and not other contributing properties, you might find yourself completing an individual 4f for the project, much more work.  Some FHWA Divisions have work arounds and avoid this issue, but if yours does not, then I am providing a sample text for a state-level programmatic 4f to cover the situation.  I hope you never need to use it.

Please note the language in both programmatic agreements are as generic as I could manage; however, if you do plan to use them, I would highly recommend that you run the language by both your FHWA division and your own lawyers, even before you bring this to the SHPO for further discussion.

Sample Section 4f Programmatic Agreement

Rural Agricultural Landscapes – Part II

Roads and Bridges in a Landscape

There are many resources within a rural historic landscape (District), some of which are bridges, and these are the specific resources in which we are interested.  How is a bridge part of a landscape and how would we determine what is contributing or not from a significance standpoint?  In considering the landscape characteristics outlined above, a bridge is part of a road system and represents the process of a pattern of spatial organization (McClelland et al, n.d.,p:4).  One feature that is relevant to the landscape characteristic is the pattern of the circulation network, which is further described as “paths, roads, streams, or canals, highways, railways, and waterways.” (p. 16).  For roads and bridges, the documentation is to “describe the principal forms of transportation and circulation routes that facilitate travel within the landscape and connect the landscape with its larger region,” and, to “identify principal roadways and other transportation routes and classify as contributing or noncontributing” [emphasis provided by Bulletin] (p. 16).

This is a critical statement in separating contributing from non-contributing resources.  As part of the circulation network, principal roadways – and their associated components – would be considered contributing.  Roadways that are not principal in the context of the Landscape’s evolutionary history would be considered noncontributing.   This statement also undercuts a view that since agriculture depends on a road system to bring goods to market, the entire network should be contributing.  Methods for considering what roadways are principal are presented below.

The second relevant characteristic is the physical component of Buildings, Structures, and Objects, which in this case, includes the bridges and highways.  The documentation in part is to “identify patterns and distinctive examples of workmanship, methods of construction, materials, stylistic influences, and vernacular forms”, as well as to “describe the principal and most important buildings, structures, and objects, by name, type, location…methods of construction, materials, stylistic influence, and if known, builder” (p. 17) (my emphasis)

Specifically for rural historic landscapes that achieve their significance under Criterion A for agriculture, these physical components as well as the boundary demarcations, the vegetation related to land use, the “clusters,” archaeological sites, and even small-scale elements need to relate to the agricultural land use and activities, agricultural adaptations, and agricultural response to the natural environment.  The historic context within which these physical components should be interpreted has largely been established by the MPDF, but for specific landscapes, telling the story of that farming system’s specific evolutionary trajectory requires that each physical component’s contributing or noncontributing status be filtered through that particular lens. For landscapes in particular, contributing resources provide tangible evidence of that evolutionary trajectory, i.e. they must help tell the story.

Looking at the bridge as reflected in both the circulation network and the physical component of the structure within the Landscape requires that we clarify what we mean when we talk about a “bridge.”  Bridge is a shorthand for multiple features, each of which is relevant to the discussion of whether the “bridge” would be contributing or not.  First, within the circulation network, the bridge is a crossing that connects pieces of the road network.  If we are to concede that the circulation network is an important characteristic of what makes a Landscape significant and what helps define its integrity, we must separate the crossing from the other “bridge” features.  In addition, if we are to assess whether the crossing contributes or does not contribute to the Landscape, we also need to assess which are the principal roads within the Landscape.  It is reasonable to assess principal in terms of which roads and which part of the network were most important to the agricultural functioning of the Landscape, both as an internal system, and, also as an external connection, i.e., bringing products to markets.  A crossing on a non-contributing road would not be contributing to the Landscape.  Crossings on principal roads would be contributing and although this seems a trivial statement, it does factor into matters of effect if a bridge project seeks to close off part of the roadway, or is part of a road relocation that substantially changes the network footprint, such as in a bypass.

The second and third features of the bridge represent the physical component, representing the superstructure andthe substructure.  It is necessary to consider these features separately, because there can be separate construction episodes, as a bridge substructure may be re-used while the superstructure is replaced.  This parsing of the bridge into two pieces requires that each piece be considered separately.  In doing so, the bridge has the ability to more precisely reflect what part contributes and what does not.  

Starting with the substructure, the central question becomes “how does the construction and operation of the substructure, e.g. abutments, wing walls, piers, etc. tell the story of the agricultural evolutionary trajectory of that particular landscape?”  In almost all instances, the substructure of a rural bridge would be composed of stone, or concrete, or a combination of the two.  A stone substructure made of local stone would more likely be able to represent the workmanship, methods of construction, materials, stylistic influences, and vernacular forms that express the Landscape in which it is set.  A stone substructure composed of quarried stone from outside the Landscape, or a concrete substructure, built following a state standard design, would be less likely to express that local workmanship, local method of construction, local material, local stylistic influences, and local vernacular forms that are significant in the landscape’s agricultural evolutionary trajectory.  The difference between stone and concrete could be the difference between contributing and non-contributing elements.  Looking at the substructure by itself, it may also be reasonable to assess whether pieces of the substructure are retained or whether they have suffered the loss of integrity of design, materials, or feeling. For example, if a locally designed substructure has been so modified in repair that it is no longer recognizable, with regards to design, materials, or feeling, the substructure may lose sufficient integrity to no longer be contributing.

Likewise, the superstructure as a physical element can express the landscape’s agricultural evolutionary trajectory or not. Superstructures constructed under the design of a local bridge engineer, or of local (stone) materials, could be argued to help tell the story of the landscape’s agricultural evolution, through local workmanship, local method of construction, local material, local stylistic influences, and local vernacular forms.  These structures would not necessarily have to be early.  During the CCC era, local engineers and workman built bridges out of local material using local knowledge.  These structures might tell the story of an agricultural trajectory of that period, buttressed by an emergency wage economy.  In wealthier regions, the local government might have undertaken a program of bridge construction to improve transportation of goods to market, locally led and locally funded.  These bridges might also tell the story of an agricultural trajectory of that period.

Conversely, a concrete state standard design bridge superstructure (and maybe substructure, too) that is constructed within a Landscape through a statewide bridge building program might be considered non-contributing, as it fails to demonstrate the local, vernacular form, even while maintaining a crossing on a principal roadway. 

Looking at the superstructure by itself, it may also be reasonable to assess whether pieces of the superstructure are retained or whether they have suffered the loss of integrity of design, materials, or feeling.  Commonly in rural settings, the bridge superstructure is invisible to the travelling public and the barriers along the bridge have been replaced several times since original construction.  In this circumstance, the superstructure might not be able to convey the locally important (workmanship and vernacular design) landscape characteristics associated with the circulation network.

Considering all three elements in a bridge, it is possible that any of the three could be considered a contributing resource.  A crossing on a principal road within the Landscape might be contributing, although the substructure and superstructure were state standard-design of non-local concrete.  The substructure might be contributing, having been constructed out of local stone, while the superstructure was a state-standard design that was placed 50 years after the substructure but still within the period of significance.

Determining Contributing/Non-Contributing

The approach outlined here offers an opportunity to closely align decisions about bridges being contributing/non-contributing with both the NR guidance and the MPDF for agricultural Landscapes.  The approach also resolves a certain fuzziness that arises when consideration of a bridge is taken as a simple all or nothing decision that tries to push the arguments into a simple yes/no format, e.g. roads and bridges are a necessary part of any rural historic district, leaving the only unresolved matter is determining whether the bridge was built during the period of significance.  Separating substructure from superstructure allows consideration of construction events and structures that may be different over material, design, and time. It avoids conflating both sub-and super-structures into one potentially dis-unified whole, where we are forced to dismiss abutments and piers that might be wholly consistent with local materials, construction, vernacular design, etc. because the overlying superstructure is relatively modern and not in local harmony, having been imposed as part of actions wholly outside of the local landscape.

The downside of the approach outlined here is one of information and knowledge, specifically the work required to obtain the information and knowledge to put each bridge through this 3-part analysis. Presuming we understand we have a rural historic district present and know for what it is significant (a big presumption), we still must figure out whether the crossing is on a principal roadway, and whether the substructure and superstructure are part of the important story that this Landscape tells.

Next: Part III

Rural Agricultural Landscapes – Part I

Rural Agricultural Landscapes and the Bridges Therein

Pennsylvania is a large and old state with a sizeable agricultural presence, and loads of older bridges that connect these farms to market. As PennDOT attempts to maintain its infrastructure, the need to address these rural bridges is clear, but as historic resources they can be important not only individually, but as contributing to a larger rural historic landscape.  This blog explores some of the issues related to considering rural historic landscapes (RHL) within the National Register, and how to parse out whether a rural bridge should be contributing or not contributing to that RHL, i.e., a large historic district.  As a historical note, this was and I believe still is a live issue between PennDOT and FHWA, and the SHPO, which started over a woodlot up in Centre County.  Although this discussion is focused on bridges and eastern rural historic landscapes, I think there may be some larger generalizations that can be drawn. Enjoy.

One of the partnerships that PennDOT, FHWA, and the SHPO entered was in the creation of a statewide rural agricultural context.  Pennsylvania was and is an agricultural state, with agriculture and its associated industries provide a $135.7 billion annual economic impact, representing close to 18% of Pennsylvania’s gross state product. This massive multi-year effort was led by Dr. Sally McMurry, a Penn State History Professor with special expertise in the history of agriculture.  She divided the Commonwealth into 16 distinct regions, each with its own agricultural signature.  Dr. McMurry and the SHPO then developed Registration Requirements for both farmsteads and (smaller) rural historic districts, which form the Multiple Property Documentation Form (MPDF).

This MPDF has been in operation since 2012 and as would be expected from a MPDF has provided a roadmap to assessing eligibility, especially in application to individual farmsteads. It gives some guidance on how rural historic districts could be considered under Criterion A. (McMurry 2012a, 2012b). The MPDF describes a historic agricultural district as “a group of farms, which share common architectural and agricultural landscape features; are linked together by historic transportation corridors… and together express characteristic features of local historical agricultural patterns.”  Registration Requirements statewide for Criterion A, Agriculture notes the following for individual properties:

…Criterion A significance should be assessed in relation to how a given property typifies a farming system, not in relation to whether a property is exceptional or unusual. A property should exemplify a farming system in all its aspects.  The totality of a property’s representation in the areas of production, labor patterns, land tenure, mechanization, and cultural traditions will determine its National Register eligibility. (McMurry 2012b Section F:1)

Characterizing a Landscape

Unfortunately, the MPDF is better developed for individual properties or what appears to be McMurry’s conception of an archetypical district, i.e. a group of farms clustered together.  When considering a rural historic landscape, however, a different set of rules may be needed.  The National Register defines a Landscape as:

a geographic area that historically has been used by people, or shaped or modified by human activity, occupancy, or intervention, and that possesses a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of areas of land use, vegetation, buildings and structures, roads and waterways, and natural features. (p. 3)

Eleven characteristics have been developed for “reading” the Landscape and understanding the forces that shape it – four of the characteristics are processes; the remaining seven are physical components.   The processes link to the physical components to form a unified whole (p. 4). 

The process of evaluating Landscapes entails “three major activities: defining significance, assessing historic integrity, and selecting boundaries” (p. 12).  Furthermore, “significance, integrity, and boundaries depend upon the presence of tangible landscape features, and the evidence of the processes, cultural and natural, that have shaped the landscape” (p. 12).

Can we build on McMurry’s work to scale up what is defined as a rural historic district or further to a Landscape?  It is reasonable to use the same Criterion A significance statement as the Registration requirement.  [Obviously, there are 3 other main Criterion for significance than A, but this is our starting point.  Perhaps at a later date, we can review RHLs under the other three frames.]  The MPDF defines a farming system as the framework for understanding how agriculture in Pennsylvania evolved, each agricultural region containing a distinctive evolutionary trajectory for a farming system, with its own chronological development and distinguishing characteristics.  In the same way that individual farms or McMurry’s district could express the farming system in its region, a Landscape could also express the region’s evolutionary trajectory, or story.


The majority of rural historic landscapes that would be considered here are significant for agriculture, under Criterion A (See p. 21 for Areas of Significance for Rural Landscapes). Significance for a Landscape under Criterion A is understood within the historic context of the region’s farming system trajectory through its landscape characteristics.

Many rural properties contain landscape characteristics related to agricultural land uses and practices. Eligibility for significance in agriculture on a local level depends onseveral factors:

  • First, the characteristics must have served or resultedfrom an important event, activity, ortheme in agricultural development as recognized by the historic contextsfor the area. 
  • Second, the property must have had a direct involvementin the significant events or activities by contributing to the area’s economy,productivity, or identity as an agricultural community.  
  • Third, throughhistoric landscape characteristics, theproperty must cogently reflect the period of time in which the importantevents took place. (McMurry 2012b:13)

When working within the MPDF, importance often hinged on productivity measures, i.e., was the farm successful.  In the frame of a large rural historic landscape, is that even a useful measure?  And if not, what would be?  

The basis for significance for the farmstead is whether the production values were above average. This doesn’t really work in evaluating rural historic landscapes, but there may be a surrogate methodology that compares one valley against the next in terms of prosperity.  When looking at a landscape as a potential historic rural agricultural district, if we bring forward the notion of the district as as system, then we can open a door to surrogate measures of prosperity.  One is the richness of functions within the (agricultural) system.  Does it have a grange, a general store, a mill, a saddlery, churches, a hotel?  Is there a hierarchy of settlement within the district, i.e., does it have a village or town as well as crossroads communities?  We would expect that the more prosperous historic districts would have these features and that the less prosperous ones have a stripped down functional environment, maybe reduced to single farms and a mill.  It may be possible to set registration requirements for different landscapes within each of the agricultural regions and within each time period, to compare in a more effective and quantitative way one landscape to the next.


McClelland, et al (n.d.) offers a reasonable and useful approach to assessing historic integrity (pp. 21-24).  For rural agricultural landscapes, qualities of location, setting, and design are less likely to be affected by modern development, although design could be significantly altered by modern agricultural practices.  Comparsions of modern and historic aerial photography can provide clues as to whether a landscape has undergone significant transformation.

Materials and association could also be vastly different from the period of significance especially if the farming systems have radically changed.  In fact, the trajectory of the history of farming in Pennsylvania is one of several major transformations statewide, from regionalism and the local mix of crops and husbandry, to a 20thcentury modernization and homogenization and pull toward external markets, to an ever increased specialization and concentration as farms become less self-reliant for animal feed, pasture, fertilizer, and family provisions.

And of course, development in the form of farms subdivided for housing, resource extraction (such as natural gas), public utilities, and other industrial development can also diminish historic integrity.  At the end, the landscape has the same challenge that smaller rural historic districts have. Can it retain the general character and feeling for its period of significance?

Next: Part II


McClelland, Linda Flint, J. Timothy Keller, Genevieve P. Keller, and Robert Z. Melnick

n.d.              Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Rural Historic Landscapes. National Register Bulletin 30. U.S. Department of the Interior.

McMurry, Sally

2012a          MPDF Introduction and Overview. Agricultural Resources of Pennsylvania, c.1700-1960.  Multiple Property Documentation Form, U.S. Department of the Interior.

2012b          Agricultural Resources of Pennsylvania, c.1700-1960. Multiple Property Documentation Form, U.S. Department of the Interior.

Sebastian, Lynne

2004            What is the Preservation Payoff? Remarks presented in a session entitled An Alternate View of the Section 106 Review Process, Appendix D, A Working Conference on Enhancing and Streamlining, Section 106 Compliance and Transportation Project Delivery, Santa Fe, NM February, 2004. SRI Foundation

U.S. Department of the Interior

1991a          How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. National Register Bulletin 15. U.S. Department of the Interior.

1991b          How to Complete the National Register Registration Form. National Register Bulletin 16A. U.S. Department of the Interior.

The PennDOT and IUP Partnership: A Personal History – V

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

In the fall of 2005, IUP floated a proposal to begin a Master’s Degree in Applied Archaeology.  In July, 2007, MOU 430647 for collections processing expired; however, the work had not yet been completed, given the vast number of collections still needing processing.  Both PennDOT and IUP felt that the partnership was worth continuing, for the collections processing, the Byways to the Past Conference and associated publication series, and the other possible joint activities.  On August 27, 2007, another 5-year MOU (431034) was executed. This time the collections processing was folded into the main MOU and going forward from 2007, PennDOT and IUP operated under a single MOU.

Beginning in early 2007, we began discussing a new way to conduct geomorphological studies.  Geomorphological studies would be conducted prior to an archaeological investigations so that we could confirm that any floodplain was stable and not active during the period of human occupation.  If we could determine that the floodplain was active, then there was no need for further archaeological study as there would have not been a stable land surface for archaeological deposits.

While this was good in theory, the economics weren’t necessarily practical.  Keeping in mind that most applications of this pre-archaeological work would be for bridge replacements in a limited footprint, it still cost upwards of $10,000 to conduct and had maybe a 50-50 chance of eliminating the need for an archaeological investigation that would cost in the neighborhood of $12,000-20,000. The high cost of geomorphology was linked directly to the design consultant bringing in a subconsultant specialist, with the prime’s overhead and profit.  Was there a way to cut the middle man out?

Indeed there was.  At that time, one of the foremost geomorphologists working in Pennsylvania was Frank Vento, who was a professor at Clarion University, also a State-Related University and therefore a state agency.  As an experiment, IUP added Dr. Vento to the IUP agreement, essentially hiring him, for the purposes of conducting geomorphological studies.  That opportunity came at Hunter Station in 2008, and demonstrated proof of concept.  We then turned around and created an MOU with Clarion University and Dr. Vento to conduct geomorphological studies going forward. Our partnership with IUP and the existing MOU permitted this proof of concept to be tested with little effort. At that time, IUP did not have a geomorphologist on staff, so there was no conflict over activities, and the task assignment did not diminish our active list of projects with IUP.  Over time, the Clarion University MOU proved to be enormously cost-effective, providing studies at approximately $2,500 each. Having a cost-effective solution for conducting geomorphology really opened this technique as a tool for our staff archaeologists, making its use much more common.

2008 brought changes to the Byways to the Past Conference. 2007 would be the last year that the Byways Conference would be held on the IUP campus, and as an explicit task assignment through the MOU.  By 2008 it was felt that the remote location of the Conference was a barrier to bringing more people together.  That year the Conference was successfully held in Harrisburg, demonstrating that the Byways Conference could be held outside of IUP.  Attendance from 2007 to 2008 was up 80% and costs were down, as (free) Commonwealth venues were selected.  The story of the Byways Conference after 2008 is worthy of its own story, full of drama, intrigue, treachery, and state government at its most incompetent.  I will leave that story for another day, largely to protect the guilty.

In 2009, IUP conducted a Phase I archaeological survey for a Wetlands Bank in Greene County.  This was unusual as generally we would have archaeological surveys conducted and paid for by the projects through the prime engineering design firm and subconsultants.  In this case, the proposed bank was not yet a programmed project, but there was a need to determine whether the proposed wetland site contained archaeological resources. If it did, the bank would be designed around the resources.  If the resources were large enough, the entire site might be abandoned as a banking location.  This was an opportunity for Central Office to perform a favor for the District by absorbing the costs of the archaeology, and more importantly, by providing the contracting instrument to get the work done.

Coincidentally, in 2009, IUP finally launched its Master’s in Applied Archaeology Program, and in the following Spring PennDOT launched the PHAST program – PennDOT Highway Archeological Survey Team.  The concept, developed by Joe Baker, paired an advanced graduate student from the MA program with 3 IUP summer interns and a cultural resources professional (CRP) archaeologist provided by PennDOT. (Note that by this time, the descriptor QP had been supplanted by CRP so this terminology will be carried forward.)  This IUP team of 4 would be scheduled around the state to conduct quick-hit archaeological surveys, mostly Phase I’s and small Phase II’s, under the direction of the CRP.  The advanced graduate student would serve as field director over the interns and under the CRP, who would oversee the work and sign off as principal investigator. Angela Jaillet-Wentling was the first field director.  Roughly 15 projects were completed in that first year, 2010.  After a fashion, PennDOT finally had its own in-house archaeology program.

I bear the responsibility for this not happening sooner, and I certainly had my reasons.  In my prior job at the Maryland State Highway Administration, I oversaw both the management of archaeological consultants and the conduct of archaeological studies by my staff for SHA. These were often in conflict as projects needed to get done regardless of who did them and there simply wasn’t enough time to both manage the consultants, review their work and reports, and simultaneously conduct archaeological surveys, analyze the results and write the reports.  To make matters worse, there was project creep as the Project Managers thought we could conduct larger and more complex field projects each time.  I vowed that at PennDOT we would not make the same mistake and discouraged any attempt to set up a program for the conduct of archaeology in-house.  Joe Baker, who had come from the Commonwealth Archaeological Program (CAP) within the SHPO, had both the skill and inclination to continue to conduct archaeological studies, as did most of the staff archaeologists, as do most archaeologists in general.  It is the old definition of the profession, “Archaeology is what archaeologists do.” In a catch as catch can manner, some of the CRPs did do archaeology for their Districts, but never officially sanctioned by me or Central Office.  It provided some friction, and until the PHAST program emerged, no real resolution in the conflict.  What finally swayed me was the fact that the proposed program was well-defined and limited in scope.

The mutual benefits of the PHAST program were immediately recognizable.  First, PennDOT got over a dozen projects a year completed at a fraction of the cost from by our regular design consultants and subconsultants.  We were saving $250,000 a year.  Secondly, it benefitted the IUP MA program by giving a student hands-on experience supervising crew, which is not only an important skill set for becoming a professional archaeologist but also is one of the requirements for meeting the Secretary of Interior Standards for a professional archaeologist.  It cannot be taught in the classroom.

IUP gained a useful lab for training its students.  As a state-related institution, IUP is also measured on how well it partners with other state agencies. The partnership with PennDOT clearly helped the Anthropology Department in street cred. And not insignificantly, the paltry (paltry when compared to contracting with private consultants, for sure) sums PennDOT paid IUP in overhead was hard currency in a university that counts its pennies.

PHAST fed and sustained our summer intern program, ESTI (Engineering, Scientific, and Technical Interns) sponsored by PennDOT. In a way, the interns provided to PHAST were free even though they were paid, and paid well I might add. ESTI interns made roughly $4 an hour more than regular students on campus.  The budget to fund ESTI came out of a different budget from ours, so we were literally using other people’s money, even though it was all PennDOT.  The field director’s salary and budget came out of the IUP MOU, so those individuals worked for IUP while the interns and Principal Investigator worked for PennDOT. Field and travel expenses for the field director was picked up by the IUP MOU, but travel expenses for the PennDOT-paid interns was covered by PennDOT.  Administratively, the arrangement was more than complex.  Joe Baker supervised the program, but as he was not classified as a supervisor, he could not technically supervise the interns, which involved matters of signing travel expense vouchers and time sheets. I picked those up during the Summer, as well as officially supervising the other interns working with the PHMC. 

The 3 PHAST student interns gained real on-the-ground field experience for the summer, again another valuable skill that is also captured in the Secretary’s Standards.  In addition, when these students could find their way to Harrisburg on a Friday, Joe Baker would add them into the seminars he gave to the other class of interns during the summer.  It was an enriched cultural resources management education.

The PennDOT ESTI program ostensibly exists as a recruiting tool for future PennDOT engineers.  We in the cultural resources unit would routinely laugh when talking about that aspect of the intern program, but perhaps the laugh was on us. Since cultural resources started working with the intern program, we have hired 3 cultural resources professionals that were former interns, including one who was the PHAST field director. In addition, a number of IUP graduates of the MA program who had worked for us as interns through PHAST are now working for our consultants and sometimes working directly for our office.  So in the end the intern program seems to be doing what it was intended to do.  And to vindicate Joe Baker’s arguments for setting up an internal field program, the Federal Highway Administration saw fit to award the PHAST program an Environmental Excellence Award in 2017.  This prestigious national award is given out every other year to about 12 projects or initiatives. In the history of the program, spanning 20 years, PennDOT has won 5 times, this being the latest.

2010 also brought PennDOT two major changes to its program.  First, the Minor Projects Programmatic Agreement that was signed in 1996 was supplanted by a revised and expanded Programmatic Agreement, which further delegated responsibilities to PennDOT CRPs and District Designees.  Secondly, PennDOT in partnership with Preservation Pennsylvania launched Project PATH, which became our online site for Section 106 consultation. I mention Project PATH because IUP played a key role in its implementation.  A premise of Project PATH was that all supporting documents would be publicly available in close to real time.  This meant the web platform was simpler and transparent.  However, it also meant that archaeological reports couldn’t be housed there.  Archaeological reports often have sensitive information and this information, primarily site locations, is specifically exempted from the Freedom of Information Act. We still needed to be able to share these reports with the SHPO and certain consulting parties and Federally recognized Tribes, and relying on a paper environment betrayed the non-print philosophy behind the Project PATH site.

IUP came to the rescue (again).  The offered up an FTP server for our use, on which we housed our sensitive archaeological reports in a secure password-protected manner. We registered and provided access and passwords to those consulting parties that needed the information.  In that way, we essentially kept two platforms going simultaneously, one fully public, and one (sensitive) that was fully private.  Section 106 work in mysterious ways, and IUP’s assistance was invaluable in getting the full solutions to electronic Section 106 launched.  IUP provided that service until 2017 when PennDOT developed and promoted a Microsoft Sharepoint environment.  At that time, IUP students helped us migrate all of the reports over those 7 years onto that new platform.

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