Managing high speed traffic is dependent on the context. In a downtown setting a well designed median with proper landscaping can provide needed refuge for pedestrians while curtailing a motorist's speed. Similarly, adding trees, and green space at a human scale can slow down high speed vehicular traffic. photo credit: Renaissance Planning Group
Many rural communities have served for decades or centuries as “way stations” along major rivers, rail lines, and highways connecting urban centers. Corridor traffic that brings customers and goods can be the economic lifeblood of a town. But too many vehicles moving too fast can overrun the heart of a community, making it unappealing to visitors and unsafe for people trying to walk or ride bicycles.
CSS techniques can help rural communities to manage high-speed car and truck traffic along major highways that pass through their central areas. Many of the most frequently used strategies -- such as gateway treatments, traffic calming, congestion management strategies, roundabouts, and visual cues -- not only improve traveler safety, but also enhance the community’s attractiveness.
Vibrant Rural Communities: Clinton, Iowa Clinton, IA
<p>In 1996, the City of Clinton, Iowa, set out to improve a stretch of US Highway 30 that runs through the heart of town. The road forms a segment of historic Lincoln Highway— dedicated in 1913 as one of the nation’s first transcontinental highways. It also serves as an entryway to Clinton and the State of Iowa. As such, city officials wanted to reconstruct the road in a way that meshed with the local context. With the cooperation of several State and Federal agencies, the community created a corridor that respects existing development, presents a welcoming gateway to the community, and sustains adjacent neighborhoods’ economic vitality.</p>
SR 179, Village of Oak Creek to Sedona AZ
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.
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.
The Danville Project Montpelier, VT
The Danville Transportation Enhancement Project is a partnership among the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Agency of Transportation [VTrans], and the Town of Danville, Vermont designed to integrate artistic enhancements into the redevelopment of a portion of U.S. Highway Route 2 through the village center.
Gateway 1: Collaborative planning for Midcoast Maine ME
Gateway 1 is a landmark long-term strategic land use and transportation planning project for the Midcoast Route 1 region in Maine. A collaboration amongst communities and state agencies, Gateway 1 explores new ways of combining transportation and land use decision-making. By doing so, the project will balance community growth and local values with transportation services and needs.
Highway through Mutzig, France Mutzig,
"Mutzig is one of the many beautiful towns in Alsace, and the conversion that was made of the main street in the 1980s lives up completely to the inherent charm of the town."
Highway through Sdr. Sejerslev, Denmark Hojer,
"By establishing seven circular humps on the highway through Sdr. Sejerslev the country of Southern Jutland has achieved a considerable speed reduction. An inquiry among the town inhabitants reveals widespread satisfaction with the scheme."
Mannsdale Road, Mississippi Route 463 Jackson, MS
Mannsdale Road is located west of the city of Madison northwest of Jackson, Mississippi. The
road is about 8 mi long and is currently two lanes wide. Land use varies significantly along the
short project length. Light commercial is prevalent at the beginning near the Interstate and shifts
to existing and developing suburban areas along the middle of the corridor. The end of the
project is primarily rural with very low density residential and agricultural uses. Most
of the project area is rich in history with two early town areas, a former plantation,
and two 150-year-old church congregations.
To date, the local residents have been successful in influencing the character of the
growth in the culturally rich area. Realizing the cultural significance of the area, the Mississippi
Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the FHWA determined that the project should be
developed following the principles of CSD. MDOT has chosen to implement and develop
context sensitive solutions by utilizing the NEPA process. A multidisciplined project team was
assembled to see the project from initial concept through the NEPA phase. Currently, the design
team and the public have reached general consensus and are advancing two build alternatives
through the NEPA process.
Early in the project a Citizen's Advisory Team (CAT) was assembled to represent the
citizens in the corridor and work with the project development team to see that the project
addressed citizens' concerns.
Route 50, Loudoun-Fauquier Counties - Virginia Lenah, VA
<p>This project is a national demonstration project, funded under TEA-21 and VDOT's (Virginia Department of Transportation) Virginia Transportation Development Plan. The project is described as "Traffic Calming Measures for Route 50 in Loudoun and Fauquier Counties." </p>
Town Center in Buxtehude, Germany Buxtehude,
"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."
US Route 101-Lincoln Beach Parkway Lincoln County, OR
U.S. Route 101 is one of the most scenic highways in the United States; not surprisingly, it serves high local, regional, and tourist travel demands. A major conflict facing the entire Route 101 corridor was the need to provide better access to resort-oriented communities to enhance economic development while balancing the impact of capacity improvements, an issue was particularly acute in Lincoln Beach. Jurisdictions along the highway eventually approved the concept of a Pacific Coast Scenic Parkway to "increase the aesthetic experience, assist in access control, and develop community identity," despite its deviation from typical ODOT design concepts.
U.S. Route 3 Port Ontario, NY
U.S. Route 3 runs north-south between the shore of the east end of Lake Ontario and Interstate 81 in New York State. Route 3 is a two-lane rural highway that passes through many old downtowns and small villages. The route is part of the Seaway Trail, a national scenic byway, and is also part of a state bicycle route. This particular project consisted of reconstruction and improvements along a 1.1-km section in the village of Port Ontario, town of Richland,
The project included the replacement of two bridges over the mouth of the Salmon River, intersection improvements, accommodation of bicycles and pedestrians and general improvements in geometric standards. The location where Route 3 crosses the Salmon River in Port Ontario is approximately 1 mile upstream of Lake Ontario and is approximately 1,500 ft.
Downtown Revitalization, Safety & Congestion Improvements, SR-14 - Bingen Bingen, WA
The purpose of this project was to reduce traffic congestion through this section of SR-14, which improved safety and traffic flow (mobility). The city of Bingen needed economic revitalization of the downtown corridor, and anticipated that their efforts to improve the transportation system would result in improved economic vitality.
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.
Paris Pike - Kentucky Lexington-Paris, KY
Paris Pike is a US urban/rural primary route between the northern limits of Lexington and the southern limits of Paris, serving commuters as well as through travelers on a segment officially designated as a scenic route. The project involved reconstruction of an existing two-lane road into a four-lane over a distance of approximately 13.5 miles. The need for this improvement is based on Paris Pikeﾒs importance in the regional transportation system, i.e. its system linkage, its lack of sufficient capacity to adequately serve not only projected travel but also existing traffic demands, inadequate existing roadway geometrics and design features, safety considerations, and social demands. A wide range of context sensitive issues were addressed as part of the construction, impacting both the natural and human environments.
Maryland Route 108 Olney, MD
Since the mid-1980's, land development around this suburban Baltimore highway has lead to drastic increases in traffic volume. Officials sought to maximize Route 108's capacity and relieve its congestion just as Maryland was developing their "Thinking Beyond the Pavement" approach. As a result, this project contributed greatly to MD's knowledge of Context Sensitive Solutions. The reconstruction of Route 108 resulted in lessons learned about the CSS process and its benefits.
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.
-- Community Partnership Forum, Washington State DOT
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 / 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 / Paper / Report
Main Street ... when a highway runs through it: A Handbook for Oregon Communities
When Main Street also serves as a state highway, communities are faced with significant challenges. The biggest challenge is to strike a balance between the needs of pedestrians, shoppers, employees, business owners, and residents with the needs of through traffic - both auto and freight - to move safely and efficiently over longer distances.
Main streets that are also state highways are found throughout Oregon: from small, rural ranch downtowns to segments of large cities. some of these main streets have kept their historic character, with a classic, small town, "Mayberry USA" appearance that is typified by a mix of uses and multi-story buildings fronting a wide sidewalk. Other main streets may have lost much of their historic appearance to strip development, parking lots, and expansion of multi-lane highways.
Whatever the character of your main street, this handbook recognizes that good highways and main streets are both critical to the health of the state's communities. It describes the many tools available to identify the problems and figure out good solutions for Main Street ... when a highway runs through it.
On May 18, 2010, ContextSensitiveSolutions.org 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.
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:
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.
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.
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>
Hutchinson, Minnesota: Implementing a Transportation Plan to Accommodate Regional Growth Hutchinson, MN
<p>Home to Hutchinson Technology, Inc. and consumer products manufacturer 3M, Hutchinson MN is a manufacturing town that is also attracting exurban development based on its proximity to the Twin Cities. The town used a context-sensitive solutions approach to revitalize flagging downtown businesses and reduce the impacts of rising regional highway traffic. Key projects from a highly coordinated local and regional planning process include a bypass for high-speed regional traffic in conjunction with multimodal modal improvements to the original Main Street highway. </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>
The Northwest Vermont Planning Project: Changing Land Use to Effect Rural Highway Improvements VT
<p>This case study was spurred by a controversy over indirect and cumulative impacts of the proposed Chittenden County Circumferential Highway road project (known by most as “the Circ”). Based on more than 20 years of difficulty advancing plans for the project, the state realized that much of the growth problem stemmed directly from a lack of resources for growth-related planning at the local and regional levels. VTrans was reacting to transportation issues caused in part by poor land use decisions at the local level. By providing planning support and sophisticated scenario modeling tools through five regional planning agencies, VTrans worked with a variety of rural communities to coordinate plans and resources towards a mutual goal of building efficient transportation infrastructure that helped them cultivate desirable development. </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>
Western Piedmont Region, North Carolina: Managing Highway Corridors and Guiding Development Hickory, NC
<p>This regional case study examines innovative and cost effective transportation investments that enhance a rural region's livability and preserve its cultural and environmental assets. The region's' two major highways, Interstate 40 and US Highway 321, have increased the potential for economic development by providing increased access to the region and by providing opportunities for business locations (such as retail outlets for locally manufactured furniture). At the same time, corridor development has created challenges such as disrupting access to properties along the highways, threatening scenic landscapes and the natural environment, and disturbing traditional community character Over the course of nearly two decades, local governments and the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) developed three corridor plans along the two major routes, each aimed to promote safety, traffic efficiency, aesthetics, economic development, and compatible residential uses. All three plans supported common objectives (primarily access management and rationalizing land use), but in each case the planners adapted the research, public engagement, technical methods, and recommendations to suit local conditions and needs.</p>
Hayden, Colorado: Community Visioning Using 3D Scenario Planning Tools Hayden, CO
<p>This case study examines ways to efficiently and quickly determine community preferences for balancing new growth and development in a small mountain town. Hayden is a rural town of 1,700 in the Yampa Valley of Colorado, 25 miles down State Highway 40 from the resort community of Steamboat Springs. Its economic base is agriculture and mining, though many residents also work in Steamboat Springs or in power plants west of town. A scenario planning process funded by the Orton and Gates Foundations produced a ‘eureka’ moment for local citizens. The ongoing "pro-growth, versus no-growth" argument shifted toward developing strategies for "growing right," such as compact urban form and connectivity.</p>
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.
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>