Expanding Transportation Options

To calm traffic and enhance the natural environment for tourists, Park City, Utah, has successfully implemented a shuttle system that blends in with the natural environment.


To calm traffic and enhance the natural environment for tourists, Park City, Utah, has successfully implemented a shuttle system that blends in with the natural environment.
photo credit: Stephanie John via flickr (CC)

A multi-use paved trail in Dunedin,Florida, promotes a shared pedestrian and bicycle facilities, which can mitigate auto related congestion while promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.


A multi-use paved trail in Dunedin, Florida, promotes a shared pedestrian and bicycle facilities, which can mitigate auto related congestion while promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.
photo credit:Renaissance Planning Group

The faces of historically homogenous, multi-generational rural American communities are changing. Many towns and counties have become more ethnically and racially diverse over the past few decades, while the percentage of aging residents in rural America is rising faster than the national average. (check and cite Census source). Meanwhile, economic conditions are also shifting quickly for rural America. The fortunes of traditional farming, mining and manufacturing communities are rising or falling with the global marketplace, while many towns with natural amenities and “urban fringe” communities are feeling the effects of booming growth.

As the social and economic realities of a community changes, so does its need for transportation options. Competing in a worldwide economy, for example, requires access not only to physical networks that move people and goods, but also to cyberspace. Rising percentages of demographic groups such as older adults and immigrant families who cannot or choose not to drive cars create rising demands for transit, bicycling, and walking facilities.

CSS strategies can help rural communities expand the range of transportation choices for all types of residents such as barrier-free pedestrian and bicycle facilities, transit services, and street networks that allow safe, efficient access for small motor vehicles such as golf carts and scooters. In addition, CSS approaches to planning can help communities design efficient, attractive land development projects, such as senior housing and health care facilities that are strategically located with easy access to walkable streets and transit services.

Houghton Streetscape and Brick Street Re-Installation
Houghton, MI
<p>The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Ishpeming Transportation Service Center (TSC) and its partners took an innovative approach on the US-41 Houghton, Michigan, downtown streetscape project by, among other things, actually drawing traffic and business into the work zone during construction. US-41 runs through the city of Houghton on a one-way pair, with northbound traffic on two-lane Shelden Avenue, and southbound on two-lane Montezuma Avenue. Originally, MDOT proposed a simple resurfacing project for downtown Houghton. However, when MDOT approached the city with its proposal, the city volunteered to help make it much more.</p> <p>By coupling funding from traffic and safety, road preservation, and Transportation Enhancement grants with city-secured monies from Michigan's Vibrant Small Cities Initiative and a Rural Development loan, a simple resurfacing project became a $4.6 million end-to-end and storefront-to-storefront reconstruction. The ratio of funding, with the city putting up more than two-thirds of the money, was atypical for a state trunkline project.</p> <p>Since the project then included complete reconstruction of the roadway, the city took the opportunity to replace the underground utilities (water, sewer, storm sewer and electricity). Together, MDOT, the city, and the project design engineer, U.P. Engineers and Architects, developed a plan that included concrete brick pavers (another unique choice for a segment of state highway) for the roadway, new decorative sidewalks, and new streetlights matching historical lights from Houghton's past.</p> <p>Routing traffic away from downtown was bound to cause concern for businesses and their customers, planned mitigation notwithstanding. The city and MDOT went to great lengths to make sure the negative impact of the detour on drivers, businesses and their customers was minimized. Special events, held during the project, drew thousands of people to downtown Houghton right in the middle of this complete reconstruction.</p>
SR 179, Village of Oak Creek to Sedona
The goal of the SR 179 project was to plan, design and build improvements that could achieve a consensus in the community while providing enhanced safety and more reliable travel times for everyone.
Design for Reconstruction of US 93: Evaro to Polson, Montana
Evaro , MT
US 93 runs from Arizona to Canada. It is a two-lane road through much of Montana, entering big-sky country from Idaho at Lost Trail pass and passing through Missoula, Kalispell, the Flathead Indian Reservation, and along the western shore of Flathead Lake before entering Canada. The road is heavily used, filled with recreational travelers as well as commercial and local traffic. It is also Montana’s most dangerous two-lane highway — not only for people, but animals. To address escalating safety concerns, the MDT initiated a plan to expand US 93 to a four-lane highway in 1989. (Based on data gathered over 20 years, MDT knew that most fatalities occurred during passing, and during weekly and seasonal peaks.) However, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes (CSKT) opposed the plans, expressing concerns about their natural, cultural, recreational and scenic resources on the 55-mile stretch of highway that traversed the Flathead Indian Reservation. Expanding the highway wouldn’t just add lanes, tribal members pointed out, it would also encourage higher speeds, which would increase the number of animals killed by speeding traffic — a safety issue for wildlife and motorists alike. Despite several efforts to come together, the project stalled--for more than a decade.
Article Icon Smart Transportation Guidebook

The Pennsylvania and New Jersey Departments of Transportation have partnered in the development of the recently released Smart Transportation Guidebook. The goal of the landmark Guidebook is to integrate the planning and design of streets highways in a manner that fosters development of sustainable and livable communities. The Guidebook has equal applicability to rural, suburban and urban areas.

Both DOTs feel that transportation needs will always outweigh available resources. Smart Transportation proposes to manage capacity by better integrating land use and transportation planning. The Guidebook states that the "desire to go 'through' a place must be balanced with the desire to go 'to' a place." Transportation investments must be tailored to the specific context and needs of each project.

The Guidebook advocates the use of a multi-disciplinary team to work closely with communities and develop a wide range of solutions. It defines Smart Transportation as also including consideration of network connectivity to help ease the burden on the major highways, thereby allowing the DOTs to develop solutions which are more sensitive to context.

Smart Transportation can be summarized in six principles: tailor solutions to the context; tailor the approach; plan all projects in collaboration with the community; plan for alternative transportation modes; use sound professional judgment; and scale the solution to the size of the problem.

Other trend-setting concepts promoted in the Guidebook are:

1. Right sizing of projects to achieve a high value to price ratio, instead of constructing projects to achieve optimum Levels of Service performance measures;

2. Defining wide ranging measures of project success;

3. The need to understand place in transportation planning, design and construction;

4. A roadway typology that is not based solely on functional classification, but also takes into account land use and place;

5. The idea that high design speed does not automatically equate to high design quality.

Intermodal Improvements, US-2, Leavenworth
Leavenworth, WA
The purpose of this project was to improve multiple modes of transportation on US-2 through the community of Leavenworth.
Laneda Avenue, Manzanita Downtown Transportation Plan
Manzanita, OR
Thoughtful, community-based planning preserved the quiet charm of this small coastal town.
Town Center in Buxtehude, Germany
"During the 1980s a large full-scale study has been conducted in Buxtehude, including extensive rebuilding in the town center and in an adjoining urban area, and in-depth initial and follow-up studies of the traffic and the environment. The principles developed in this connection became one of the models for the 'Tempo 30' programme now in force in German towns."
Springdale, Utah: What's Good for a Park is Good for a Town, Too
Springdale, UT
"Surrounded on three sides by Zion National Park, the town of Springdale, Utah, has long served as the gateway community for the park's visitors ... However, with almost three million visitors every year, by the early 1990s, traffic congestion and illegal parking were taking their toll on the park and its gateway town. The heart of the project is the free shuttle bus system that runs through town, picks up and drops off passengers at parking facilities, hotels and major areas, and ends at a new visitor center located within Zion National Park."
Bridgeport Way - University Place, Washington
University Place, WA
Bridgeport Way is a major urban arterial and it could be considered as a "Main Street" of University Place. The project involved reconstruction of an existing five-lane road into a four-lane divided roadway over a distance of approximately 1.5 miles. The purpose of this project was to address the safety concerns due to the high number of crashes over the past years. At the same time it was viewed essential to the vision statement of the City Council that aimed in improving the quality of life in the community by creating a town center. The goal of the project is to develop Bridgeport Way as a corridor that will improve traffic safety, increase the mobility and cohesiveness of the community, enhance the appearance of the corridor, and control traffic growth.
Maryland Route 355
Montgomery County, MD
Significant regional traffic growth and localized development has resulted in traffic increases along Route 355, a two-lane highway in rural and suburban Maryland. Completion of this mobility-enhancing project required a comprehensive approach involving design creativity, stakeholder involvement, and agency coordination. Stakeholders learned that converting a two-lane highway into a six-lane arterial in a built-up area is no small feat, especially when the conversion is done in a manner in which the finished product fits with the surrounding area.
Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Improving Small City Highways: New Techniques for Improving Safety and Livability Through Technology Transfer
Highways provide needed access to destinations in small cities in addition to allowing through travel to other places. Many small city highways are very wide and traffic speeds excessively high. Extensive paved areas, narrow sidewalks, and little greenery has resulted in a dangerous, unpleasant environment for residents and visitors. Increasing traffic volumes and resulting highway reconstruction often make problems worse. City residents recognize these problems and would like to see design solutions that improve the safety and livability of their communities.
-- Greg Pates, Landscape Architect, Minnesota Department of Transportation
Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Street Design and Community Livability
"In this paper, we will evaluate the system of highway classification that is used in the USA and in Germany. Our goal is to develop guidelines concerning how the American system can be modified so that community livability issues are integrated in the overall approach to the system of highway design."
-- Norman Garrick, Tobias Kuhnimof
Article Icon Presentation Using CSS to Help Transportation Investments Foster Livability Webinar Materials

On May 18, 2010, presented a webinar on applying CSS to transportation investments in order to achieve livability sponsored by FHWA, in partnership with the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, Renaissance Planning Group, and Project for Public Spaces.

The ideas of livability and Context Sensitive Solutions have the potential to transform America’s communities so that they not only have improved transportation systems, but are also sustainable, vibrant, and foster personal and social well-being.

This webinar was intended to help practitioners at the federal, state, and local level understand which CSS principles to apply, and in which situations, in order to address obstacles to livability in America’s diverse urban, suburban, and rural landscapes.

Article Icon Article / Paper / Report NCHRP Report 582: Best Practices to Enhance the Transportation - Land Use Connection in the Rural United States

The report explores how different types of rural communities can integrate land use and transportation planning. The report also highlights programs and investment strategies that are designed to support community development and livability in rural areas while providing adequate transportation capacity.

Rural communities throughout the United States are facing a wide and complex range of challenges that both affect and are affected by the transportation system. These include economic shifts away from traditional employment in local farming and manufacturing toward industries such as agribusiness and tourism; changing demographics such as rising percentages of elderly residents or new levels of racial and ethnic diversity; rapid growth in some rural areas and population decline in others; and a lack of adequate capacity and/or commitment to engage the public in transportation and land use planning. These trends are further complicated by funding challenges associated with operating, maintaining, and building transportation infrastructure.

Although urban areas may be facing many of the same or similar issues, the presence of such challenges in a rural setting poses a unique set of circumstances that requires a distinctly different approach. Although abundant research findings exist on strategies and measures to address the effects of growth and development on transportation systems and services in urban and metropolitan areas, there has been little corresponding research to address how rural communities can work with transportation agencies to set and reach mutual goals for livability and mobility.

Surveys for this project indicated that the number one challenge for rural communities is to provide access within the community to destinations such as jobs, shops, services, education, and healthcare. The particular type of accessibility need for each community varies based on the community's particular setting and economic base. For example, exurban communities are primarily concerned with providing access to jobs in adjacent urban centers; destination communities focus on bringing visitors into the community and providing access to tourist destinations; and production communities either attempt to improve accessibility between local products and their markets or to diversify the local economy. Other frequently cited challenges include maintaining or improving water and air quality, improving driver safety, protecting open space and environmentally sensitive lands, and providing access between the community and destinations around the larger region.

Best practices and strategies for achieving these results within various types of communities fall into three major activities:

  1. Set the regional framework for where and how development should occur, through practices such as
    • Growth management and preservation strategies to guide development into suitable locations; and
    • Regional access management strategies promoting access to designated development areas as well as discouraging unwanted rural development.
  2. Improve local accessibility to daily needs such as jobs, shopping, services, and health care, through practices such as
    • Development standards and plans to promote mixed-use, walkable community centers; and
    • Transportation investments focused on improving street connectivity, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and transit service to community focal points.
  3. Enhance community design, through practices such as
    • Context-sensitive roadway design techniques that complement natural and built environments; and
    • Local access management and community design strategies, particularly along key commercial corridors.

Burlington, Iowa: Revitalizing a Struggling Small Downtown
Burlington , IA
<p>Burlington, Iowa, was a significant Midwestern river and rail transportation hub from the 1820s til the mid-twentieth century. Manufacturing remains an important component of the local economy, but sprawling suburban development has made it difficult for the downtown area to compete. In the 1960s, the community college moved from downtown to West Burlington. Major retailers, such as J.C. Penney, left for a mall there in the 1970s. And in 2000, Burlington lost 1,500 downtown jobs when the area hospital moved west as well. In the face of these challenges, the Burlington community has rallied around its downtown and formed a successful public-private partnership to support reinvestment.</p>
Cutler-Orosi, California: Community-Based Transportation Planning
Orosi, CA
<p>The two agricultural communities of Cutler and Orosi, CA were struggling with high poverty rates, inadequate water and sewer capacity, and a dangerous traffic problems on the main street/ state highway. Through an innovative design charrette, community residents (many of whom speak only Spanish) and business leaders made context sensitive design recommendations to improve pedestrian and bicycle uses, lighting and sidewalks, which supported goals for traveler safety and economic development. Since the 2001 workshop Caltrans has repaved entire stretches of the study area, using reflective materials for foggy seasons and visibility. All intersections now have crosswalks. ADA compliant ramps have been added, and tree wells have been put in to make way for plantings to be contributed and maintained by community and civic groups. New traffic lights are being added or upgraded, as well as new and upgraded signage to alert drivers that they are in downtown and school areas. </p>
Edgartown, Massachusetts: Promoting Walkable, Attractive Development on Upper Main Street
Edgartown, MA
<p>This case study examines ways in which to ensure the character, quality and pedestrian-orientation of historic, downtown main street facing typical, strip commercial, auto-oriented development patterns. The economy of this 19th century whaling community in Martha's Vineyard revolves around serving vacationers and retirees drawn to Edgartown by its seaside character, a busy harbor, and a well-preserved town history. Through a carefully managed planning process in coordination with arts and community development agencies, the town developed a master plan that has guided historically consistent, appropriately scaled downtown growth and supported additional bicycling, walking and transit options for local residents and some 20,0000+ summertime visitors. </p>
Lincoln City, Oregon: Taft Village Redevelopment Plan

<p>This case study examines what can be done to revitalize a small urban village in a rural setting, with a state highway running through it. Lincoln City spans eight miles along the Pacific coast. Taft is one of the city's five villages, all of which are bisected by State Highway 101,a heavily trafficked coastal road. The Taft village plan resulted in a special ODOT designation that allowed officials to treat Highway 101 differently than most state highways because of its joint function as a main street. Using the STA modified design strategies, more than $10 million in roadway and streetscape improvements has helped to develop the local economy, improve traffic flow, and enhance the downtown. More than 15 new businesses have opened, many older businesses grew or remodeled, and many new jobs have been created. For more information about Special Transportation Area (STA) designation, see Main Street-When a Highway Runs Through It: A Handbook for Oregon Communities, ODOT, 1999. </p>
Sedona, Arizona: Serving Visitors and Preserving the Region’s Natural Beauty
Sedona, AZ
<p>This case study examines innovative and cost effective transportation and land use strategies, including public transit services, that enhance this southwestern rural region's livability, preserve its cultural and environmental assets, and support some five million annual visitors. Through a collaborative process involving multiple jurisdictions and agencies, a regional transportation plan was created that emphasized the following: creating a regional multimodal transportation system, limiting new highway construction, fashioning an effective public transportation system, and changing community design to create a more livable community for pedestrians and bicyclists. A major catalyst to the project was the hope that creating a true multimodal, livable community would both preserve its natural beauty and character and would increase the marketability of the region for visitors to make their stays lengthier. </p>
Virginia Creeper Trail: Leveraging Transportation Improvement for Revitalization
Abingdon/ Damascaus, VA
<p>Constructed in 1984 on an abandoned rail line through national forests and parks, this 33-mille hiking, biking and equestrian trail has attracted visitors, new residents, and businesses to the Appalachian towns of Abingdon and Damascus,VA. More than 100,000 people use the trail every year, generating between $2.3 and $3.9 million in local revenue. The communities of Abingdon and Damascus have successfully used the trail to improve their historic areas and attract tourists from the region and far beyond.</p>
Moss Point, Mississippi: Rebuilding A Rural Community After Disaster
Moss Point, MS
<p> This case study examines rebuilding a devastated rural community with interconnected transportation and land use goals. Highway 613, the local Main Street, and the bridge over the bayou to Interstate 10, were expanded in ways that helped speed the decline of downtown. Businesses along one whole side of the center of Main Street were removed, making the town center feel open, deserted and uninviting. The wider street with few controlled intersections made pedestrian movement difficult. After Hurricane Katrina washed away several other key community buildings, the town conducted a design charrette. The resulting plan included moving the city hall and fire station out of the flood zone and onto Main Street while realigning other streets to make way for a proposed waterfront park. Just south of the park would be a restored main corridor with mixed use buildings and storefronts pulled up to the street in the original style of the town center. As of summer 2013, the city has built a new central fire station, opened a new city hall, and has revitalized the downtown riverfront park and main street landscape. The City's downtown association has adopted a "Main Street Four-Point Approach" created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.</p>
U.S. Route 62 Village of Hamburg
Hamburg, NY
<p>The purpose of the project was to coordinate highway improvements and revitalization efforts in accordance with the Department’s Context Sensitive Solutions philosophy and Environmental Initiative. The intent is to incorporate the Village’s desire for change, improvement and a rebirth of the community into the Department’s basic mission for improving the transportation corridor. </p> <p> Route 62 in the Village of Hamburg is not only the center of local business, but also a major truck route. As such, the project addressed, safety, capacity,aesthetic context concerns, and infrastructure deficiencies. The New York State Department of Transportation project encouraged collaboration and community engagement, which resulted in in well-informed and community-valued design alternatives.</p>
Policy Icon Policy Document Planning for Transportation in Rural Areas

This FHWA document is designed as a resource to rural planners, city and county engineers, stakeholders, local officials, and other decision-makers involved with developing rural transportation plans. It is intended to foster a better understanding of the characteristics, issues, and trends affecting rural transportation systems and the benefits of good rural system planning. It provides approaches and case study profiles for public consultation, environmental review, transit system planning, intelligent transportation system planning, and access management.

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