Hurricane Irene on August 28th and Tropical Storm (TS) Lee on September 9th caused extensive damage to the transportation infrastructure throughout eastern Pennsylvania. Roads and bridges were affected in numerous counties in Engineering Districts 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, 5-0, 6-0, and 8-0. PennDOT’s response to these storms has been immediate; crews were in the field inspecting damage and making temporary repairs in the days after Irene and following through TS Lee.

Section 106 Responsibilities

As a state agency, PennDOT has cultural resources responsibilities under the State History Code. In addition, PennDOT will be seeking Federal funds from both FHWA on Federal-aid roads and bridges and FEMA for state-owned non-Federal aid roads and bridges. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and the State History Code are not waived for emergencies, except for immediate threats to life or property (36 CFR §800.12).

Programmatic Agreements

Both FEMA and FHWA have Programmatic Agreements (PA) to cover emergency activities in Pennsylvania. In general, the FHWA PA divides activities into three groups.

  1. Operations to preserve life and property are exempt from the provisions of Section 106 (See 36 CFR §800.12 above). In these instances, if possible PennDOT cultural resources professionals will work closely with field crews to take reasonable measures to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects, understanding that these actions are exempt from Section 106.
  2. Certain other activities, by their nature, are exempt from Section 106. Included in this group are activities to repair roads to pre-disaster conditions, repair of bridge scour, channel cleaning, etc.
  3. Finally, non-exempt activities are coordinated with the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission) in a way that mimics the Section 106 steps, but is done in an expedited manner. Under the FHWA PA, PennDOT takes the lead in scoping and coordinating with the SHPO.

The FEMA PA also divides activities into the same three groups: operations to preserve life and property; programmatic allowances (similar to the exemptions in the FHWA PA); and, standard review. Under the FEMA PA, FEMA takes the lead in coordinating with the SHPO, although PennDOT can initiate Section 106 steps.

Pictured above: Walnut Street Bridge in Harrisburg closed for flooding during Tropical Storm Lee. Photo courtesy of Brian Ostella.