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Principles of Context Sensitive Design

The following principles were presented at the 1998 workshop, Thinking Beyond the Pavement: A National Workshop on Integrating Highway Development With Communities and the Environment, held in Maryland.

Qualities of Excellence in Transportation Design

  • The project satisfies the purpose and needs as agreed to by a full range of stakeholders. This agreement is forged in the earliest phase of the project and amended as warranted as the project develops.
  • The project is a safe facility for both the user and the community.
  • The project is in harmony with the community, and it preserves environmental, scenic, aesthetic, historic, and natural resource values of the area, i.e., exhibits context sensitive design.
  • The project exceeds the expectations of both designers and stakeholders and achieves a level of excellence in people's minds.
  • The project involves efficient and effective use of the resources (time, budget, community) of all involved parties.
  • The project is designed and built with minimal disruption to the community.
  • The project is seen as having added lasting value to the community.

Characteristics of the Process Contributing to Excellence

  • Communication with all stakeholders is open, honest, early, and continuous.
  • A multidisciplinary team is established early, with disciplines based on the needs of the specific project, and with the inclusion of the public.
  • A full range of stakeholders is involved with transportation officials in the scoping phase. The purposes of the project are clearly defined, and consensus on the scope is forged before proceeding.
  • The highway development process is tailored to meet the circumstances. This process should examine multiple alternatives that will result in a consensus of approach methods.
  • A commitment to the process from top agency officials and local leaders is secured.
  • The public involvement process, which includes informal meetings, is tailored to the project.
  • The landscape, the community, and valued resources are understood before engineering design is started.
  • A full range of tools for communication about project alternatives is used (e.g., visualization).

More Information


Keith Harrison
Resource Center, San Francisco
E-mail Keith

Keith Moore
Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)
E-mail Keith

Rod Vaughn
Resource Center, Lakewood
E-mail Rod

Updated: 02/01/2007

United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration