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During the 1990s highway design changed rapidly throughout the United States. Highway designers and builders have learned that they must be more sensitive to the impact of highways on the environment and communities. New and better ways of designing highways are evolving following the completion of the Interstate system, based on growing interest in the improvement of highways and their integration into the communities they serve.

Following the substantial completion of the U.S. Interstate system, the transportation focus for many States has shifted to congestion management and system preservation projects that involve existing facilities. Most of these existing facilities are substantially developed, and transportation improvement projects will affect this development. Working with community stakeholders to preserve and enhance the human and natural environment thus becomes a significant component of these projects. To best address the challenges of these projects, many State transportation agencies and professional organizations are interested in implementing a context sensitive solutions approach for planning and project development.

Milestones in the history of CSS show how the field has evolved beginning in 1969 with the passing of The National Environmental Policy Act requiring transportation agencies to consider adverse impacts of road projects on the environment. Momentum was gained in the late 1990s when the Maryland Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration conducted Thinking Beyond the Pavement: National Workshop on Integrating Highway Development with Communities and the Environment While Maintaining Safety and Performance in May 1998. This workshop was co-sponsored by AASHTO and FHWA with the advice and support of the National Workshop Advisory Committee. Find out more about Maryland's Workshop at

Momentum in the effort to advance CSS implementation nationwide continues with FHWA's 2003 Performance Plan identification of "Environmental Stewardship & Streamlining" as one of its three "Vital Few Goals". Within this goal, is an objective to incorporate context sensitive solutions into planning and project development in all 50 states by 2007.

Most recently is FHWA and partners launching of the website in 2004 and the inclusion of language in SAFETEA-LU in 2005 promoting consideration of CSS core principles in planning and project development processes.

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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: 07/19/2010

United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration