Since 1998, FHWA, AASHTO, and state DOTs have been striving to improve the quality of transportation decision-making and project development processes through implementation of the philosophy and principles of context-sensitive solutions (CSS). CSS is a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach that involves all stakeholders in providing a transportation facility that fits its setting. It is an approach that leads to preserving and enhancing scenic, aesthetic, historic, community, and environmental resources, while improving or maintaining safety, mobility, and infrastructure conditions. The CSS approach not only advocates timely and effective involvement of all stakeholders, including the public, in these processes, but also project-specific tailoring and the integration of multidisciplinary experts serving on interdisciplinary teams in these processes. Although FHWA, AASHTO, and many state DOTs have made considerable progress in advancing CSS in transportation practice, barriers still remain in the way of mainstreaming full and effective implementation of the philosophy and principles of CSS.
Findings from a 2005 AASHTO survey of state DOTs on CSS and a national AASHTO/FHWA CSS Peer Exchange indicate that, in many states, CSS misperceptions and resistance to change exist and DOT leadership, staff, stakeholders, and the public do not have a clear understanding of what defines and constitutes CSS. State DOTs want to improve their CSS implementation processes and desire more effective educational and training tools and guidelines. To help, guides are needed to help citizens and discipline-specific professionals better understand the philosophy and principles of CSS and be more effectively engaged in the development and operational processes of transportation programs and projects.
The objective of this research is to develop two CSS guides, one for citizens and one for discipline-specific professionals. (The term “discipline-specific professionals” refers to individuals who participate in collaborative transportation decision-making by providing specialized information and analyses in their fields of expertise.) The guides will explain roles, responsibilities, and opportunities in transportation decision-making from long-range transportation planning through operations and maintenance. The research will be guided by CSS principles developed at the 1998 “Thinking Beyond the Pavement” conference held in Maryland and now referenced in the U.S. Code, as well as refinements, currently in draft form, developed as a result of a joint AASHTO/FHWA strategic planning process conducted in 2006 and 2007.
To help citizens and transportation practitioners’ better understand the philosophy and principles of CSS and improve CSS implementation, NCHRP project 08-68 produced two CSS guides: one for citizens and one for transportation practitioners. Each guide explains roles, responsibilities, and opportunities in transportation decision-making from long-range transportation planning through operations and maintenance.
An oversight panel provided oversight to this effort and included:
Emmett R. Heltzel, Panel Chair, Virgina Department of Transportation
Robert L. Beardsley, US Department of Housing and Urban Development
Scott Bradley, Minnesota Department of Transportation
Julie Hunkins, North Carolina Department of Transportation
Clay Smith, Texas Department of Transportation
Keith J. Harrison, Liaison, Federal Highway Administration
Going the Distance Together Context Senstive Solutions for Better Transportation: A Citizen's Guide is available as NCHRP Web Doc 184 and is available here.
Going the Distance Together, Context Sensitive Solutions for Better Transportation: A Practitioner's Guide is available Federal Highway Administration's Context Sensitive Solutions website.