Moving Ahead with Context Sensitive Solutions in South Carolina
For the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT), the use
of context sensitive solutions (CSS) is changing the way highway projects
are developed and built. With CSS, the goals of ensuring safety and
mobility when designing and constructing a road or bridge are enhanced
by the aim to preserve environmental, community, scenic, and historic
resources. Vital to the CSS approach is early and continuing stakeholder
involvement and understanding of the existing landscape, neighboring
communities, and the area’s valued resources prior to designing
A 3-day workshop held in October 2002 helped to advance the SCDOT’s
use of CSS. The hands-on workshop included representatives from SCDOT,
the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), South Carolina Department
of Natural Resources (SCDNR), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and
the State’s Department of Archives and History and Office of Coastal
Resource Management also participated in the event. FHWA and SCDOT jointly
developed and funded the workshop in a cooperative effort with the SCDNR.
The SCDNR was fully involved in the development of the workshop and
has become a big proponent of CSS.
Using existing and planned SCDOT projects as examples, workshop participants
discussed how to apply CSS principles. The information gained from the
workshop will be used as these projects move forward in the development
“The CSS workshop was very helpful,” says Wayne Hall, Assistant
Environmental Manager for SCDOT. “With CSS, you’re usually
looking at multiple features of a project. Instead of just having the
vehicular perspective, the workshop opened it up to other agencies so
that we had a more broad-based perspective. It was a good venue to get
feedback from everyone, including planners, resource and regulatory
agency staff, and environmental staff.” It was also “a real
eye opening experience to hear what the resource agencies had to contribute
in terms of data and information about the affected environment,”
adds Patrick Tyndall of FHWA’s South Carolina Division Office.
|SCDOT is using context sensitive solution for its Cooper
River bridge project in Charleston.
SCDOT is incorporating CSS elements into its Cooper River bridge project
in Charleston (see September 2003 Focus). For example, the agency has
been working to reduce the potential effects of the bridge’s lighting
on loggerhead turtles. Nesting loggerheads lay their eggs on beaches
and then find their way back to sea by following the moonlight or starlight,
which until modern times were the brightest lights in the sky. Loggerhead
hatchlings, meanwhile, instinctively head off toward the brightest light.
SCDOT has implemented a variety of measures to reduce the potential
effects of the bridge lighting on the turtles. These measures include
the elimination of overhead sign lighting in favor of high-grade reflective
sheeting, elimination of high mast lighting at two interchanges in favor
of short mast directional lighting, reduction in lighting system wattage
from 1000 watts to 250 watts per bulb, and the installation of a lighting
control system that will allow aesthetic lighting on the bridge’s
towers and cable system to be turned off at strategic times. The reduced
lighting will not only aid the turtles, but will help to alleviate concerns
about interference with the paths of migratory birds.
Since the October 2002 CSS Workshop, the SCDOT has been busy integrating
CSS principles into its project development process. Several new initiatives
- SCDOT has established a CSS working group that has identified several
pilot projects where CSS can be implemented.
- The CSS working group is also developing an engineering directive
for all SCDOT projects, which will require that CSS be considered
during the planning process.
- SCDOT has revised its Highway Design Manual to include a section
on Context Sensitive Design Principles.
- SCDOT has a new policy where accommodations for bicycles and pedestrians
are included on all new projects and projects already designed are
reexamined to see if bicycle/pedestrian accommodations can be added.
- The agency has also developed and implemented a new Public Involvement
Process that requires a Public Involvement Plan for all significant
FHWA has several new initiatives
underway designed to advance the understanding and adoption of
context sensitive solutions (CSS) concepts.
Working with the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the
Congress for New Urbanism, FHWA is developing CSS design criteria
for major urban streets. The guidance will focus on designing
streets that are compatible with the surrounding landscape and
activity and that provide safety and mobility for drivers, as
well as those that live or work nearby.
Another resource now in development is a CSS Web site that will
serve as a comprehensive source of information, including case
studies, policies, and training opportunities. The Web site is
being developed in cooperation with the American Association of
State Highway and Transportation Officials, Federal Transit Administration,
Project for Public Spaces, and the National Association of City
For more information, contact Seppo Sillan at FHWA, 202-366-1327
For more information on the use of CSS in South Carolina, contact Wayne
Hall at 803-737-1872 (email: email@example.com)
or Patrick Tyndall at 803-765-5460 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
For general information on CSS, contact Seppo Sillan at FHWA, 202-366-1327
or Harold Peaks at FHWA, 202-366-1598 (email: email@example.com).
Information is also available online at www.fhwa.dot.gov/csd/index.htm.
Context sensitive solutions
(CSS) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to involve
all stakeholders in the development of a transportation project.
This involvement ensures that the project fits its physical setting
and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic, and environmental resources,
while maintaining safety and mobility. Often previously referred
to as context sensitive design (CSD), the term “CSS”
reflects the broad applications of the context sensitive approach.
The CSS approach considers the total context within which a transportation
improvement project will exist. It also focuses on providing an
early and clear statement of purpose and need for a project and
then addressing equally such considerations as safety, mobility,
aesthetic characteristics, historical and cultural resources,
and environmental and other community values.
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