Preservation and Reuse of Abandoned Historic Railroad Tunnels in the United States
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Type of Work229 p.
ProgramMA in Historic Preservation
RightsTo view a complete copy of this thesis please contact Goucher College Special Collections & Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 337-6075.
Subjectshistoric railroad tunnel
Historic preservation -- Theses
Tunnels -- United States -- Rehabilitation
Railroads -- United States -- History
It is without question that the expansion of railroads during the nineteenth century had a profound influence on the development of the United States. Thus, railroads have earned a prominent place in American history. As Americans, we value the preservation of surviving elements of railroad infrastructure as reminders of their role in the formation of our national heritage. Since the 1980s, however, many changes have occurred in the railroad industry that now threaten our ability to preserve significant railroad structures. Among those structures are historic railroad tunnels. This treatise evaluates how historic railroad tunnels in the United States can be rehabilitated, maintained, or reused, while simultaneously preserving their historic integrity. This evaluation shows that threats to the preservation of historic railroad tunnels result from a number of sources including federal guidance for tunnel rehabilitation and federal programs supporting high-speed rail, as well as the modernization of the freight rail industry and the adaptation of abandoned tunnels for alternative uses. Two case studies, the Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel in Virginia and the Hoosac Tunnel in Massachusetts, demonstrate how the changing railroad industry poses threats to historic tunnels and how preservation needs are or are not considered. This analysis finds that, despite requirements to comply with Section 106, when railroads implement tunnel upgrades, preservation is often secondary to the economic needs of the railroad. To increase the level of consideration given to historic preservation, this treatise recommends increasing awareness of a tunnel’s significance within the local community. As historic preservation is, and has always been, primarily a grassroots effort, increasing local awareness of the historic value of a tunnel will help influence the manner in which the railroads implement tunnel upgrades. This treatise also recommends expanding federal programs that aid in railroad infrastructure upgrades to give railroads incentives to implement projects that are sensitive to historic preservation needs. This treatise also recommends revising the existing federal tunnel rehabilitation guidelines to be more compatible with the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for rehabilitation. Increasing public awareness of the value of historic railroad tunnels; creating additional opportunities for railroads to receive government support for projects sensitive to preservation needs; and revising federal tunnel rehabilitation guidance to include provisions specific to historic tunnels will help preserve, protect, and sustain these resources so they may continue to provide valuable insight into one of the most significant eras in the history of the United States.