What is Context Sensitive Solutions?
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) defines Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) as:
- a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach that involves all stakeholders to develop a transportation facility that fits its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility
- an approach that considers the total context within which a transportation improvement project will exist
CSS principles address both the transportation decision-making process and project outcomes. A CSS process relies on "open, honest, early and continuous" communication, and draws from the knowledge that communities and other stakeholders bring to a transportation question. With a focus on collaboration and consensus, CSS meaningfully involves stakeholders in transportation planning, design, and implementation. CSS means taking a flexible approach to designing a transportation project, so that the infrastructure fits into the natural and human environment, its context.
Quick Facts on CSS
FHWA has prepared a series of brief documents on a range of CSS topics.
- How CSS Developed (PDF:77KB)
- Principles, Qualities and Outcomes of CSS (PDF:63KB)
- Benefits of CSS (PDF:61KB)
- Challenges and Barriers to CSS Integration? (PDF:72KB)
- Design Exceptions (PDF:56KB)
- Area-wide Transportation Planning (PDF:42KB)
- CSS Performance Measures (PDF:73KB)
- Corridor and Sub-area Planning (PDF:69KB)
- Nominal and Substantive Safety (PDF:48KB)
- Responsibilities of Executives in Integrating CSS - new (PDF:52KB)
For a broad overview of Context Sensitive Solutions and hundreds of examples of CSS in action, visit ContextSensitiveSolutions.org.
Recent research and guidance on CSS:
NCHRP Web Document 184: Going the Distance Together: A Citizen's Guide to Context Sensitive Solutions for Better Transportation is designed to help people ask the right questions at the right time during the transportation planning process to help ensure that transportation projects fit the context of their community.
NCHRP Report 642: Quantifying the Benefits of Context Sensitive Solutions offers a framework for performance evaluation with metrics to measure the benefits of applying CSS principles.
NCHRP Legal Research Digest 57: Tort Liability Defense Practices for Design Flexibility provides a framework to assist transportation agencies and legal counsel with documenting and defending design decisions made following the principles of CSS.
NCHRP 25-25 Project: Defining Community Context in Transportation Project Planning and Development. This project collected and compiled tools and methods from many disciplines including public health, community development, environmental science, landscape architecture, historic preservation, urban design and architecture. It includes an online searchable database of tools for defining community context.
Archived EPA Smart Growth Webinar: Creating a Unique Public Space: The Uptown Roundabout in Normal, IL. EPA's Office of Sustainable Communities and local officials discuss how their city solved a tricky traffic problem by creating a vibrant, environmentally friendly public space. The Uptown Normal Roundabout is the 2011 Civic Places category winner for EPA's National Award for Smart Growth Achievement.
Archived FHWA Webinar: Americans with Disabilities Act and Context Sensitive Solutions. This webinar is targeted towards CSS practitioners, to present basic ADA requirements and provide examples of creative applications of the requirements in the field.