CSS deals with "context" both as a constraint and an opportunity. Better understanding of a context can help a project be in harmony with the community and preserve resources that otherwise might be lost or harmed. Better understanding the issues facing any context -- whether a small town main street or a scenic rural road -- will also help frame the role that a transportation project can play in enhancing that place. Transportation investments, if properly conceived, can be catalysts to create lasting value in a community or countryside.
Scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental resources do not exist just as isolated elements. They exist in part, because a community values these features (i.e. a historic landmark in the center of Main Street or trees that line a rural road), or because they are linked to intangible qualities (i.e. pride in a town's cultural history and reputation.). The process of understanding people's value is an important part of CSS.
By definition and practice, therefore, CSS requires sensitivity to the total context within which a transportation project will exist. Federal executive orders, statutes, and regulations also mandate the protection of many contextual resource elements that a transportation project may impact.
CSS begins with understanding specific resource elements that make up the context -- Aesthetic, Archeological, Community/Economic, Cultural, Environmental (or "Natural"), Historic, Recreational, and Scenic.
The transportation focus for many states and locales has shifted to projects that involve existing facilities, including reconstruction and 3R (Resurfacing, Restoration, Rehabilitation), rather than new construction. CSS also strongly ties to maintenance and operations. However, CSS is an appropriate strategy for all types of projects. The extent of activity can be adjusted for what is needed for each project type.