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5 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND This research effort is the second phase of an NCHRP proj- inventories and context use. The survey was conducted in the ect on improving current approaches to evaluating cultural fall of 2001. A literature review of published documents and resource significance (i.e., National Register eligibility) in the reports on CRM practices was also conducted. context of both transportation projects and compliance with The literature review and the nationwide survey resulted in Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The several interesting observations as to how existing computer- NCHRP panel overseeing this two-phased study, which began ized inventories were structured and how historic contexts in 2000, consists of representatives from state DOTs, TRB, were used. Geographic information system (GIS) programs the FHWA, and private consultants. URS conducted both from Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI), phases of study for the NCHRP. are the most popular software programs used. Together, Arc- View and ArcInfo are used by more than half of the agencies with computerized cultural resource databases. MS Access is PHASE 1 the next most popular software and is in use by 30 to 40 per- cent of the agencies. Oracle and dBASE are less common. The following summary provides the scope, research Many agencies are using more than one software package approach, and objectives of the first phase. A more detailed and may have migrated their databases one or more times. discussion of the Phase 1 study can be found in NCHRP Eighty-nine percent of the SHPOs and 51 percent of the Research Results Digest 277: Review and Improvement of DOTs had computerized archaeological inventory files. How- Existing Processes and Procedures for Evaluating Cultural ever, only 70 percent of SHPOs and 40 percent of DOTs with Resource Significance. computerized inventories also had the resource locations com- The evaluation of the significance of historic and archaeo- puterized. Historic structure inventories showed similar per- logical resources (i.e., determining their eligibility for listing centages, but historic bridges and landscapes were less likely in the National Register of Historic Places) is an important to be computerized. Of the agencies with computerized inven- and critical problem in the transportation planning process, tories, only 60 percent of the SHPOs and 40 percent of DOTs at both the state and local level. This problem has been gen- had historic bridges and landscapes computerized. erally addressed in a piecemeal manner and in the context of The concept of a "digital divide" has become common in a specific project or group of projects, often resulting in proj- the popular media, and to some extent the survey results indi- ect delays, conflicts, and increased cost. What is required to cate such a divide among agencies in their progress toward solve this problem and avoid these delays and conflicts is to computerizing cultural resource inventories. In particular, have an existing general framework for making resource most of the SHPOs have made either substantial progress evaluation decisions. The primary goal of this NCHRP study (over 75 percent of their resource inventory is computerized) is to develop and test possible tools to improve cultural or little progress (less than 25 percent is computerized). resource significance decision making. When asked the question "If there is no computerized The Phase 1 study examined current methods used nation- resource inventory, what is the number one impediment to the wide to manage and organize cultural resource inventory data development of this inventory?" the most frequent responses and historic contexts. The study also determined if IT appli- were lack of personnel and lack of funds. Lack of time was cations have been useful in developing inventories and con- the third most common answer, and not an agency priority texts. Finally, the study provided recommendations regard- ranked fourth. When asked the question "Should there be a ing IT applications to improve the development and use of national clearinghouse (with Internet access) listing all exist- resource inventories and historic contexts as tools for deter- ing computerized inventory database and historic contexts?" mining resource significance. Through a nationwide survey of approximately two-thirds of all respondents said yes. The SHPOs, state DOTs, THPOs, and several federal agencies states, however, are wary of national database efforts for two (including the FHWA), the research team (1) examined current main reasons. First, they perceive problems with previous methods for managing and organizing cultural resource data federal attempts at centralized data collection, particularly the and historic contexts and (2) evaluated IT applications for National Park Service's National Archaeological Database