Historic Contexts, Introduction

As part of its regulatory compliance, the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) works closely with the Maryland Historical Trust, the Maryland State Historic Preservation Office, and the Federal Highway administration (FHWA), to identify Maryland's cultural resources that could be affected by transportation projects. In 1995, MDOT SHA undertook statewide studies of bridges, small highway structures and the history of suburbs. The three studies,

examine historic resources from the colonial period to 1960. Each context provides a methodology identifying character defining elements (CDEs), including primary features, and important construction dates, architects, engineers, and events, (recording inventions and the development of materials), with which historic resources are assessed. These determine eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

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

These contexts assist MDOT SHA and the Trust in Section 106 (historic preservation) consultation. All three agencies were active in the documents' development and review. The Trust accepted the findings of each context report. Copies are available in the Trust's library.