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In December 2002 the Transportation Research Board issued "A Guide to Best Practices for Achieving Context Sensitive Solutions" (NCHRP Report 480). This guide demonstrates how state departments of transportation and other transportation agencies can incorporate context sensitivity into their transportation project development work. The information gathered for this guide comes from the five states that had agreed to initiate pilot efforts to institutionalize context sensitive design principles in their project development procedures. These pilot States are: Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, and Utah. Additional information came also from other States that were moving towards context sensitive design/context sensitive solutions (CSS/CSD) as well as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Eastern Federal Lands (EFL) office in Sterling, Virginia. The EFL was essentially the sixth "pilot state." The report is currently the most definitive and comprehensive guide on CSD/CSS.

The guide is divided into several sections that cover parts of the project development process. They are: Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Context Sensitive Design; Effective Decision Making; Reflecting Community Values; Achieving Environmental Sensitivity; Ensuring Safe and Feasible Solutions and; Organizational Needs. Each section contains, as appropriate, subsections that provide best practices information on variety of topics that need to be addressed in order to achieve context sensitivity. These include Management Structure, Problem Definition, Alternative Development, Alternatives Screening, Evaluation, and Selection and, Implementation. Each major section concludes with a comprehensive Key Resources and References. Also included is a section with nine case study reports.

The CD-ROM included with the printed report reorganizes the material into a matrix of project development process steps and issues related to context sensitivity. It also includes significant background material drawn from actual projects (e.g., evaluation criteria, public involvement plans, aesthetic design guidelines, and animated views of design alternatives) that provide concrete examples of context sensitive solutions.

Copies of the guide are available from:

Transportation Research Board
Business Office
500 fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

and can be ordered through the Internet at:

The price is $21.00

National Cooperative Highway Research Program Projects

For more information on TRB's NCHRP Projects please visit

  • Project 20-07, Task 128: The result of this project is the publication by AASHTO of How Transportation and Community Partnerships are Shaping America, Part II: Streets and Roads, in August 2000. With Project for Public Spaces, Inc., as consultant, this study identifies, describes, and disseminatesvinformation on the best examples of highway projects contributing to enhanced community livability.
  • Project 15-19: "Application of Context Sensitive Design Principles" provides direction to State departments of transportation and other agencies on how to accomplish CSD throughout their transportation project development work. Specifically, the objective is to provide a concise, easy-to-use guide written for DOT personnel at all levels who conduct a range of project types.
  • Project 20-07, Task 114: This project is an effort to produce a companion document to FHWA's Flexibility in Highway Design. Topics being addressed are geometric design, roadside safety, environmental design, tort liability, and community involvement. A synthesis of the available draft documents is currently underway.
  • Project 15-22: The objective of "Safety Consequences of Flexibility in Highway Design" research is to provide guidance to enable project planners and designers to estimate the safety consequences of varying geometric design values for highways through rural communities.

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