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Texas Historical Commission
On behalf of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), SWCA Environmental Consultants (SWCA) conducted an intensive archeological survey on August 24–27, 2020, of 43.51 acres of proposed new right-of-way (ROW) along U.S. Highway (US) 277 in Tom Green County, Texas. Because the project will receive funding from the Federal Highways Administration, it qualifies as an undertaking as defined in Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 800.16(y) and, therefore, was conducted in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (54 U.S. Code 306108). Furthermore, the project must also comply with the Antiquities Code of Texas (9 Natural Resources Code 191). Chris Ringstaff served as Principal Investigator under Texas Antiquities Code Permit No. 9542.
The project widens US 277 from 1.2 kilometers (km) (0.75 mile) north of Farm-to-Market 2105 to US 67. The total length of the project is approximately 4.11 km (2.86 miles). The total project area and archeological area of potential effects (APE) for this project consists of the footprint of all proposed improvements and totals 176.20 acres (132.69 acres existing ROW and 43.51 acres proposed new ROW); however, the survey area was limited to the 43.51 acres of proposed new ROW. The maximum depth of ground disturbances is approximately 3.0 m (10 feet) and the typical ground disturbance are 0.6 m (2 feet) in depth below the existing ground surface.
Background research identified one previous cultural resources survey that intersects the northern terminus of the APE and two previous cultural resource surveys within 1 km (0.6 mile) of the APE. In addition, three previously recorded archeological sites (i.e., 41TG15, 41TG315, and 41TG558) are within 1 km (0.6 mile) of the newly proposed APE. No previously recorded archeological sites intersect the project APE, and no historical markers, National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) properties, NRHP districts, or State Antiquities Landmarks (SALs) are within 1 km (0.6 mile) of the proposed project APE.
During the historic maps review, SWCA identified one potential historical structure and one historical railroad (i.e., Colorado and Santa Fe) within 1 km (0.6 mile) of the APE. The potential historical structure is outside of the APE and will not be affected by the proposed construction and road improvements. The railroad parallels Old Ballinger Highway, which intersects the existing US 277 ROW, and is currently in use.
SWCA conducted an intensive pedestrian survey of the proposed new ROW and excavated 50 shovel tests, four backhoe trenches, and four column samples within the APE. The deep mechanical prospection (i.e., backhoe trenching) was conducted in proximity to playa deposits identified within the APE. No cultural materials were identified within the APE during the investigations.
SWCA has made a reasonable and good faith effort to locate and identify historic properties as per 36 CFR 800.4(b)(1), and cultural resources as per Subchapter A of Chapter 26 of the Texas Administrative Code, throughout the proposed project APE. Based on the results of the survey, SWCA recommends a finding of “no historic properties affected,” and no further archeological investigations are recommended within the proposed APE.
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