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Core Principles of CSS

These core CSS principles apply to transportation processes, outcomes, and decision-making.

  1. Strive towards a shared stakeholder vision to provide a basis for decisions.
  2. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of contexts.
  3. Foster continuing communication and collaboration to achieve consensus.
  4. Exercise flexibility and creativity to shape effective transportation solutions, while preserving and enhancing community and natural environments.

- Results of Joint AASHTO/FHWA Context Sensitive Solutions Strategic Planning Process Summary Report, March 2007

CSS Qualities

Context sensitive solutions is guided by a process which:

  • Establishes an interdisciplinary team early, including a full range of stakeholders, with skills based on the needs of the transportation activity.
  • Seeks to understand the landscape, the community, valued resources, and the role of all appropriate modes of transportation in each unique context before developing engineering solutions.
  • Communicates early and continuously with all stakeholders in an open, honest, and respectful manner, and tailors public involvement to the context and phase.
  • Utilizes a clearly defined decision-making process.
  • Tracks and honors commitments through the life cycle of projects.
  • Involves a full range of stakeholders (including transportation officials) in all phases of a transportation program.
  • Clearly defines the purpose and seeks consensus on the shared stakeholder vision and scope of projects and activities, while incorporating transportation, community, and environmental elements.
  • Secures commitments to the process from local leaders.
  • Tailors the transportation development process to the circumstances and uses a process that examines multiple alternatives, including all appropriate modes of transportation, and results in consensus.
  • Encourages agency and stakeholder participants to jointly monitor how well the agreed-upon process is working, to improve it as needed, and when completed, to identify any lessons learned.
  • Encourages mutually supportive and coordinated multimodal transportation and land-use decisions.
  • Draws upon a full range of communication and visualization tools to better inform stakeholders, encourage dialogue, and increase credibility of the process.

- Results of Joint AASHTO/FHWA Context Sensitive Solutions Strategic Planning Process Summary Report, March 2007

CSS Outcomes

Context sensitive solutions leads to outcomes that:

  • Are in harmony with the community and preserve the environmental, scenic, aesthetic, historic, and natural resource values of the area.
  • Are safe for all users.
  • Solve problems that are agreed upon by a full range of stakeholders
  • Meet or exceed the expectations of both designers and stakeholders, thereby adding lasting value to the community, the environment, and the transportation system.
  • Demonstrate effective and efficient use of resources (people, time, budget,) among all parties.

- Results of Joint AASHTO/FHWA Context Sensitive Solutions Strategic Planning Process Summary Report, March 2007



Placemaking Principles for CSS
  The Wisconsin Department of Transportation uses eleven principles (adapted from Project for Public Spaces) that they apply to transportation projects.
Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Results of Joint AASHTO/FHWA Context Sensitive Solutions Strategic Planning Process
On October 26 in Portland, Oregon, a working group of 37 individuals assembled in conjunction with the AASHTO Standing Committee on Highways annual meeting to continue the dialogue on the institutionalization of CSS at state DOTs and FHWA. Using information gained from the peer exchange, the Portland work group directed its attention toward refining the definition and principles of CSS, and establishing joint AASHTO/FHWA strategic goals and an associated action plan to further CSS implementation in transportation agencies.
Excerpt IconExcerpt CSD/CSS Framework
Steps for successful CSD/CSS projects  more...
from  NCHRP Report 480: A Guide to Best Practices for Achieving Context Sensitive Solutions
Excerpt IconExcerpt Approach and Core Principles of CSS Design
"For each potential project, designers are faced with the task of balancing the need for the highway improvement with the need to safely integrate the design into the surrounding natural and human environments. In order to do this, designers need flexibility. There are a number of options available to State and local highway agency officials to aid in achieving a balanced road design and to resolve design issues." more...
from  Flexibility in Highway Design
Excerpt IconExcerpt How Context Sensitive Streets Can Help Create a More Livable Community
How context sensitive streets can help create more livable communities; some of the varied transportation needs and objectives that are typically considered in CSSD. more...
from  Context Sensitive Street Design
Book Icon Book NCHRP Report 480: A Guide to Best Practices for Achieving Context Sensitive Solutions
This guide demonstrates how state departments of transportation (DOTs) and other transportation agencies can incorporate context sensitivity into their transportation project development. This guide is applicable to a wide variety of projects that transportation agencies routinely encounter. While the guide is primarily written for transportation agency personnel who develop transportation projects, other stakeholders may find it useful in better understanding the project development process.
--  Transportation Research Board (TRB)
Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Beautiful Roads: A Handbook of Road Architecture
"This handbook contains a number of general and thematic descriptions of good road architecture and [provides a] checklist system in the planning, implementation, and maintenance stages. ...The ambition of this handbook is for road building to be based on a joint understanding of the interrelationship among aesthetic enjoyment, good architecture, good technical quality, and good workmanship, traffic safety, and good economy."
-- Danish Road Directorate
Article Icon Article / Paper / Report Thinking Beyond the Pavement Conference
Held at the University of Maryland Conference Center in May of 1998, Thinking Beyond the Pavement provided a landmark opportunity for 325 invited participants from 39 states and the District of Columbia to develop a vision of excellence in highway design for the 21st Century. Participants included chief engineers, senior designers and planners from 29 state departments of transportation, representatives of national transportation organizations, and a variety of stakeholders from government, the private sector, and citizens' organizations.

The workshop was developed under the leadership of the Maryland State Highway Administration's Administrator, Parker F. Williams; Tony Kane, Executive Director, Federal Highway Administration; and Francis B. Francois, Executive Director, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). They formed an advisory committee of some 40 organizations to help define the direction and content of the conference, including professional associations, local and state government, regulatory agencies, and safety, environmental, scenic, historic preservation, and bicycle groups.
-- Maryland State Highway Administration (MDSHA)
Thinking Beyond the Pavement Conference: The Qualities and Characteristics of CSS
  At the 1998 "Thinking Beyond the Pavement Conference," the definition of CSS was further defined by seven "Qualities that characterize excellence in transportation design," and by eight "Characteristics of the process that yield excellence." These "qualities" and "characteristics" are goals for any CSS project, and can also be used as evaluation criteria upon its completion.

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