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Amendment would give more funds to preservation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) recently introduced an amendment to update 40-year-old highway construction rules and better balance development and preservation needs.

The amendment represents an agreement between state highway officials – the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) – and the leading historic preservation organization – the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which worked together to draft compromise language they both could support.

Voinovich offered the amendment to the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003 (SAFETEA) which the Senate began debating last week. Voinovich is a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, which wrote the highway bill.

“This legislation strikes a reasonable balance so that we’re preserving our irreplaceable heritage and parklands while also allowing highway development projects that are important to our economic growth to move ahead,” the senator said.

“I was impressed with the cooperative spirit displayed by the groups involved and glad that agreement could be reached. The public’s interest is being met on many levels and I’m glad to help play a role in that.”

Voinovich’s amendment revises rules that were created in the early 1960s to prevent the construction of the newly authorized Interstate highway system from destroying historically significant sites and public parkland. With the Interstate system now completed, however, updates to the policies are warranted.

Voinovich’s amendment will maintain critical protections for historically significant sites and publicly owned parkland by ensuring reviews by state historic preservation offices and park officials. It will also ensure that those reviews are done early in a highway project’s process to prevent expensive disruptions later.

"This agreement is a breakthrough, offering a positive, constructive approach to addressing key historic-preservation issues," said AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley.

“The National Trust is grateful to Senator Voinovich and the Ohio Department of Transportation for taking a leadership role in reaching out to a variety of stakeholders to develop this consensus position on Section 4(f),” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“The National Trust fully supports this amendment as it relates to historic sites, and the entire preservation community joins us in that endorsement, including our partners Preservation Action and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers. We also want to acknowledge the tireless and effective support of Senators Warner, Jeffords, and Chafee as we have worked to protect America’s heritage."