Cultural Resource Program
The Virginia Department of Transportation's (VDOT) staff of archaeologists and architectural historians focuses on reviewing plans for new construction and highway maintenance to ensure that effects on property of cultural and historical significance are avoided or minimized when possible.
This work is performed in compliance with Federal and state laws and regulations, especially Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (citation) and its implementing regulation, 36 CFR 800.
It’s common for VDOT to conduct studies to identify historic properties such as archaeological sites, buildings, bridges, districts, cemeteries, and battlefields.
One of the most notable discoveries is the Brook Run site, first identified while conducting a routine study for the widening of Route 3 in Culpeper County.
Dating back over 11,000 years, the site was once an ancient quarry where Virginia’s earliest Native American inhabitants mined large rocks of jasper that were later fashioned into projectile points, knives and other tools.
Given the importance of this site, VDOT adjusted its highway improvement plans to avoid the most significant archaeological deposits.
When effects cannot be avoided, VDOT often conducts professional archaeological excavations in advance of highway construction to preserve important information.
Along Route 199, just outside of Williamsburg, archaeological excavations uncovered the remains of a late 18th-century slave quarters associated with the country plantation of James Southall, the owner of the Raleigh Tavern.
In Danville, before work associated with rehabilitation of the Main Street Bridge was begun, VDOT conducted archaeological excavations in the back yards of two residences in an adjacent neighborhood to learn more about the lives of mill workers in the city’s important textile industry from about 1890 through 1930.
VDOT’s Cultural Resource Program, with the assistance of the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research (VCTIR), is also involved in implementing a management plan for VDOT’s 55 historic bridges that have been determined eligible for listing on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.
These structures include a wide variety of metal truss, concrete, masonry, and covered wooden covered bridges, some dating to before the Civil War and still in service.
Recently, VDOT completed the installation of a fire-detection system at the Meems Bottom Covered Bridge in Shenandoah County and is performing rehabilitation work on the Humpback Covered Bridge in Alleghany County.
Both of those bridges are listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register and National Register of Historic Places.
VDOT’s stewardship of the commonwealth’s heritage can also involve unusual activities, such as the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s transfer to The Museum and White House of the Confederacy of a rare and valuable Civil War cannon that VDOT purchased for a wayside in 1932.