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Last Updated: Monday, August 22, 2016 2:48 PM

Cultural Resources Issues

The surviving traces of the historic and prehistoric past are non-renewable resources. They are easily degraded or destroyed by highway projects unless an appropriate effort is made to identify, evaluate, and protect them. Documenting the often-ephemeral traces of our collective history adds to the understanding and appreciation of California's past by future generations.

The public is concerned about how Caltrans projects affect cultural resources. Responsible consideration of cultural values in the course of project planning and implementation helps avoid conflict and build support for Caltrans transportation objectives. This concern is manifested by a suite of laws and regulations that relate to archaeological, historical and social-cultural resources and issues.

Caltrans complies with federal laws for transportation projects with federal funding. This process is commonly known as "Section 106" of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Significant non-archaeological resources are also subject to Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. Caltrans must also comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) of 1970 and uses the California Historical Resource Status Codes for this purpose.

The concerns of Native Americans are also addressed by a variety of specialized federal and state laws and regulations. See the Native American Issues page for more information.

Caltrans has established policies and guidance for compliance with federal and state cultural resources laws and regulations. They are contained in the Caltrans Standard Environmental Reference (SER), Volume 2 – Cultural Resources.

This page includes information on the following topics:


Each of the twelve Caltrans Districts has cultural resources specialists who are responsible for ensuring that compliance with cultural resources laws and regulations are carried out. The point of contact in each district is the Heritage Resources Coordinator, also known as the “HRC.” In addition, the Cultural Studies Office in the Division of Environmental Analysis in Sacramento has cultural resources specialists who develop policy, review documents, and also are responsible for ensuring that Caltrans complies with appropriate laws and regulations. The roles and responsibilities for these specialists are outlined in Chapter 1 of the SER – Volume 2. The list of Heritage Resources Coordinators is available here.


The First Amended Section 106 Programmatic Agreement (106 PA) among Federal Highways Administration (FHWA), the State Office of Historic Preservation (SHPO), the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation (ACHP), and Caltrans is effective January 1, 2014. The 2014 106 PA supersedes the 1995 PA for the seismic retrofit of bridges between FHWA and Caltrans; 2004 PA for Section 106 among FHWA, SHPO, ACHP and Caltrans; and the 2007 Addenda for Sections 6004 and 6005 of SAFETEA-LU among FHWA, SHPO, ACHP and Caltrans.

Guidance for use of the 106 PA can be found in Caltrans SER, Volume 2 - Cultural Resources.

Annual Reports for the First Amended Section 106 Programmatic Agreement

Annual Reports for the Original Section 106 PA which expired December 31, 2013.


The templates listed below are for use in completing cultural resources studies for Caltrans and Local Agency projects. More templates may be added as they become available.

Compliance Document Templates:

DPR 523 Form Templates:

Character Defining Features Templates:


The following documents are available on the SER - Other Guidance Page.