One page descriptions of a technique or action for a given designer, planner, engineer or project manager to take.
Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) is a collaborative, inter-disciplinary
approach that involves all stakeholders, provides a facility that fits its
setting, preserves and enhances scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental
resources, and improves or maintains safety, mobility and infrastructure
Before reviewing the thorough discussion of CSS on this page, consider the ten-second test to determine if you are on the path toward a context sensitive solution:
It cannot be CSS without:
Achieving the goal of sustainable streets and highways means that over the life cycle of the facility, outcomes are net positives in terms of environmental, societal and economic criteria - the "Triple Bottom Line." If sustainable streets and highways represent the outcome toward which we strive, the best and most proven way to "get there" is to a apply a contextual approach to every aspect of planning, designing, implementing, operating and maintaining the service or facility being provided.
A contextual approach is one which takes into account all of the relevant contexts - from the physical to the invisible - certainly the environmental, societal and economic, but also the political, institutional, and attitudinal as well. A context-sensitive solutions approach involves the engagement of stakeholders and inter-disciplinary professionals in the definition of purpose and need, the formulation of a vision, the generation of ideas, the evaluation of alternatives, and ultimately a decision on what to do and how to do it. With stakeholders articulating aspirations and concerns and interdisciplinary professionals synthesizing and integrating stakeholder views with project requirements, and with a continuous and constructive interaction between the two groups, the likelihood of consensus about a sustainable as well as a functional outcome is greatly enhanced.
As depicted in the table below, the contextual approach for streets and highways differs markedly from the more traditional approach that evolved in an era dominated by planning and implementing the Interstate Highway System - a system in which standardized methods were encouraged to produce consistent outcomes.
The context sensitive approach, by proactively engaging all stakeholders affected by the project, by assembling and focusing the creative energies of an interdisciplinary team on addressing contextual as well as functional goals, and by fostering substantive and respectful communication between the two groups, enhances the likelihood of a sustainable outcome. This approach moves unrelentingly toward an outcome in which the facility fits its setting as it preserves and in fact strives to enhance scenic, aesthetic, environmental and historic resources while preserving and enhancing safety, mobility and the condition of the infrastructure.
Related Toolkit Resources: