The page you requested has moved and you've automatically been taken to its new location.

Please update your link or bookmark after closing this notice.

Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration
Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

Integrating Context Sensitive Solutions in Transportation Planning

Task 2.1: Literature Review

< Prev | Index | Next >

The objective of this section of the report is to provide information and resources related to context sensitive solutions (CSS) in the transportation planning process. The section is organized as an annotated bibliography with sections on general discussions of CSS, current research initiatives, and applications and policies at National, State, and regional agencies. The intent of this section is to provide background information on using a CSS approach to transportation planning as well as examples of how transportation agencies are implementing CSS practices and developing CSS policy initiatives. These resources also provide background for the toolkit materials developed for this project.


Keyword Search

An extensive list of keywords and phrases were used to identify CSS principles being applied in planning. The following list includes some of the keywords used to search public, private, governmental, and CSS-related Web sites, publications, conference proceedings, transportation research organizations and professional entities.

  1. Community engagement in transportation planning
  2. Public involvement in transportation planning
  3. Stakeholder involvement in transportation planning
  4. Multidisciplinary planning teams
  5. Regional transportation planning
  6. Land-use and transportation planning integration
  7. Land-use, transportation, and air quality planning
  8. Livability policy
  9. Livable communities policy
  10. Sustainability policy
  11. Design-oriented planning
  12. Transportation planning and urban design
  13. Form-based codes and transportation
  14. Transportation planning and scenario building
  15. Land-use and transportation scenarios
  16. Visioning
  17. Long-range plan visioning
  18. Strategic transportation planning
  19. Transportation planning and environmental considerations
  20. GIS in transportation planning
  21. Transportation planning and smart growth
  22. Planning for sustainable transportation
Top of Page

Annotated Bibliography


Lazzara, J. and L. Arrigoni. 2004. "Context sensitive solutions: A collaborative process for planning, design and construction." Transportation Builder, Vol. 16, No. 6; pp. 35-37.
This article details an example of collaborative processes for planning, design and construction, in this case the Franklin Orleans Street Bridge of the Chicago River. In a special design process called context sensitive solutions (CSS), project stakeholders like merchants, hoteliers, and residents play an integral planning role. A citizen advisory committee is formed, and public outreach leads to better information dissemination, the article states. CSS policy development at various departments of transportation is listed, along with some CSS basic tenets. The article concludes with further development of existing CSS policies in Illinois.

Brach, A.M. 2005. "A taxonomy for stakeholder involvement in public sector transportation research and technology programs." Public Works Management & Policy, Vol. 9, No. 3; pp. 223-231.
Stakeholder involvement has become critical in transportation research over the past two decades as constituencies that had previously shown little interest in research began to realize that Federal and State government decisions about research priorities could influence market opportunities and public policy. Providing for stakeholder involvement in a research program means giving those interested in the research opportunities to help shape the program. This article develops a taxonomy for stakeholder involvement in public sector transportation research programs based on the purpose of the research, sponsorship of the research, and stages of the research management process. Four types of stakeholders are identified: sponsors, experts, users and affected parties, and their potential roles at each stage of the research management process are discussed. The article identifies four general types of mechanisms for stakeholder involvement, from the least formal to the most formal mechanism, and provides guidelines for their use in the context of the taxonomy for stakeholder involvement. The taxonomy developed in this paper can help transportation research program managers develop practical approaches for stakeholder involvement.

Hoover, J.; McDowell, B.; Sciara, G.C. 2004. Transit at the Table: A Guide to Participation in Metropolitan Decisionmaking. Parsons Brinckerhoff, Report No. VA-90-1004-04-1; 88p.
This report presents the observations, perspectives, and recommendations of a cross section of transit agencies from large metropolitan areas on how to secure positions in the metropolitan planning process. More importantly, the report can be a guide on how to use those positions to win policy and program support for priority transit services. The challenges to achieving full decision-making partnerships in regional settings, the most effective strategies for addressing these challenges, and the rewards of partnerships are presented by transit industry leaders using their own experiences. While the primary audience for this report is transit general managers and transit senior staff, important messages are included for other key stakeholders. Because the overall effectiveness of a metropolitan planning organization rises and falls with the depth of the decision-making partnerships, suggestions and strategies presented in this report represent significant opportunities for improving current practice. Key findings of the report were also used in preparing a self-assessment checklist for transit operations in assessing their profile and participation in metropolitan planning. The indicators are generic and not exhaustive. As such, the questions should be regarded as only the starting point for subsequent discussion focused on local issues. This checklist is located in appendix A of the report. This report is a product of the Transportation Planning Capacity Building Program and can be found at as a metropolitan planning technical resource.

Levine, J. and A. Inam. 2004. "The market for transportation-land use integration: Do developers want smarter growth than regulations allow?" Transportation, Vol. 31, No. 4; pp. 409-427.
Policy reform efforts have recently assumed that manipulating land uses in the direction of smart-growth alternatives can improve travel behavior. This notion of manipulating land uses implies that the alternative is somehow self organized or market based, which may underestimate the extent to which current planning interventions in the United States impose an automobile-oriented template on most new development. Rather than a market failure, the paucity of smart-growth alternatives may be a planning failure. This problem definition would shift the burden of proof for policy reform, as uncertainty in travel behavior benefits would hardly justify the continuation of exclusionary regulations. If municipal regulations in fact constrain alternatives to low-density, automobile-oriented development, one would expect developers to perceive unsatisfied market interest in such development. This article studies, through a national survey, U.S. developers' perceptions of the market for pedestrian- and transit-oriented development forms. Findings show that respondents perceive considerable market interest in alternative development forms, but believe that there is inadequate supply of such alternatives relative to market demand. Developer-respondents attribute this gap between supply and demand principally to local government regulation. The majority of developers indicated that relaxation of these regulations would lead them to develop in a denser and more mixed-use fashion, particularly in close-in suburban locales. These results can be interpreted in favor of land policy reform based on the expansion of choice in transportation and land use.

Sen, S. and L.M. Azonobi. 2004. Environmental justice in transportation planning and policy: Some evidence from practice in the Baltimore-Washington DC metropolitan region. Morgan State University, National Transportation Center, Report No. 0102-006; Final Report; 51p.
The purpose of this report is to answer two broad research questions: (1) How is environmental justice in transportation addressed and implemented to take into account low-income populations and minority communities and their needs, problems, and aspirations? and (2) How are environmental justice data and concerns incorporated into the transportation decision-making process? The research employed multiple methods. These included a literature review; qualitative interviews with transportation planners, practitioners, policy makers, and other stakeholders in transportation planning and policy in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., metropolitan area; and a focus group in Baltimore. The primary analytical framework was drawn from critical ethnography and studies of practice and discourse in public policy. Three different views of environmental justice emerged from this study of the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Most private consulting firms in the area are engaged in environmental justice because it is a source of job and contracts. Most public officials in the region are engaged in environmental justice and public participation because it is a Federal regulation and requirement. However, most citizen and advocacy groups in the region consider environmental justice and its implementation as part of the agency's mission. The lack of uniform standards regarding environmental justice issues, coupled with scarcity of information, as well as the complexity of the issues, are all obstacles to implementing and enforcing environmental justice principles. Access to information is an important issue for community organizations, advocacy groups, low-income, and minority groups. Public agencies often hold meetings at places that are not easily accessible, or at times difficult for transit dependent, low-income, and minority populations to attend. It is recommended that transportation agencies in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., metropolitan area take a proactive stance in involving low-income and minority communities in the transportation policy and planning process. This should involve establishing outreach programs through nonprofit organizations, minority institutions, and advocacy groups that already play significant roles in these communities.

TPRAC Minutres, VDOT Richmond District Training Center, Context -Sensitive Solutions in Large Central Cities (Thursday May 27, 2004)
The Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at New York University has released a summary of the proceedings and findings from a peer-to-peer workshop on context-sensitive design solutions held on June 19-20, 2003, in New York, NY."

Context Sensitive Solutions, Federal Highway Administration, January 6, 2005
This report summarizes the current and recently completed activities of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) program. These are CSS-focused efforts being pursued in support of achieving the FHWA Vital Few Goal of improving environmental stewardship and environmental streamlining. CSS offers agencies the concepts and strategies to reach a consensus on transportation improvement solutions through the balancing of multiple objectives and stakeholder desires (e.g., safety, mobility, environmental, financial, land owner, and community values).

Current Research Activities

Strategic Highway Research Program II (SHRPII)
This cooperative program funds short-term, results-oriented research projects. The program has four main research areas: highway safety, highway renewal, travel-time reliability, and capacity. The goal of the capacity program is to support research that will help reach the goal of integrating mobility, economic, environmental, and community needs in the planning and design of new transportation capacity. Twelve RFPs were released in fall of 2006, and approved work programs are expected to be released in fall of 2007.

Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Research Program (STEP)
The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) established the Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Research Program (STEP). The general objective of the STEP is to improve understanding of the complex relationship between surface transportation, planning and the environment.

Transportation Pool Fund
When significant or widespread interest is shown in solving transportation-related problems, then research, planning, and technology transfer activities may be jointly funded by several Federal, State, regional, and local transportation agencies, academic institutions, foundations, or private firms as a pooled fund study. A Federal, State, regional, or local transportation agency may initiate pooled fund studies. Private companies, foundations, and colleges/universities may partner with any or all of the sponsoring agencies to conduct pooled fund projects.

Research for the AASHTO Standing Committee on Planning (NCHRP 08-36)
The objective of this project is to establish a flexible, ongoing program of quick-response research designed to develop improvements to the analytical methods, decision-support tools, procedures, and techniques employed by practitioners to support statewide and metropolitan transportation planning, programming, and development.

Research for the AASHTO Standing Committee on the Environment (NCHRP 25-25)
The objective of Project 25-25 is to provide flexible, ongoing, quick-response research on environmental issues in transportation. This research will be designed to develop improvements to analytical methods, decision-support tools, procedures, and techniques employed by practitioners to support statewide and metropolitan transportation planning, programming, and development.

NCHRP 15-32: Context Sensitive Solutions: Quantification of the Benefits in Transportation
This NCHRP project will provide practitioners and policymakers with solid information on the costs and benefits of applying the principles of CSS in project development. Some of the findings of this report will likely also be applicable to transportation planning agencies. The report is anticipated for release in 2008.

Applications: Streamlining Planning Strategies

Delaware Smart Growth Transportation Strategies, Robert Kleinburd, Environmental Program Manager, FHWA Delaware Division,, 302-734-2966
In 2001 the State governor announced a planning agenda to promote smart-growth development called "Livable Delaware." The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) adopted a series of strategies to support the governor's statewide agenda. DelDOT appoints representatives to local/county development advisory committees, which create site plan reviews and municipal transportation ordinances as part of land development. Certain counties can enable themselves to deny approval of development plans that would worsen traffic congestion. In addition, DelDOT will participate in on-going corridor coordination to facilitate preservation efforts. For more information on Livable Delaware and how it relates to enhanced transportation planning in Delaware see:

Maryland Expert Panel Utilized to Identify Probable Development Patterns, Dan Johnson, Environmental Protection Specialist, FHWA Maryland Division,,
The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) and FHWA Maryland Division have sponsored expert panel discussions to explore the future of Routes 42, 43, 270, and the Intercounty Connector (ICC). Discussions concerning land use near the ICC have been very extensive. Members on the ICC panel include representatives from academia, bankers, realtors, regional planners, and transit planners. At the meetings, panel members review local planning assumptions based on factors such as demographic and economic projections. In addition, the expert group explores long term cumulative and secondary impacts resulting from future projects. The panels use the Delphi Approach to brainstorm ideas and a contracted facilitator from CH2M Hill to get to consensus. All sessions are open to the public.
For more information on the land use and the ICC see:

Integrating NEPA and Statewide Transportation Planning Pilot, Elton Chang, Environmental Coordinator, FHWA Oregon Division,, 503-399-5749
Under the Integrating NEPA and Statewide Transportation Planning Pilot, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is moving the first tier of a tiered NEPA process into the planning process. The first tier, called a Location Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), addresses the location of a proposed facility at the corridor level and addresses the modal question. The first tier includes stakeholder involvement and NEPA approvals to purchase right of way where necessary to protect the corridor. Approval to move to final design is acquired later through a second tier document, called a Design EIS, prepared during the project development phase. Using this approach, ODOT will have the information needed to make sound project decisions. Decisions will then be linked to commitments that can protect corridors prior to funding and implementation. ODOT believes that total project delivery time will be shortened and land-use patterns will be developed that are more compatible with proposed facilities.

"Hear Every Voice" Public Involvement Process, Cheryl Martin, Environmental Engineer, FHWA Minnesota Division,, 651-291-6120
In 1999, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) finalized a new public-involvement process called "Hear Every Voice." The process guides Mn/DOT staff on how to involve the public, including non-traditional stakeholders, early and often in transportation planning and decision making. (

Caltrans/FHWA/EPA Partnership Pilot, Stephanie Stoermer, Environmental Program Manager,, 916-498-5057
Under the California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS)/Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)/U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Partnership Pilot, the three agencies are developing joint initiatives that will help reduce project delays while collaboratively meeting transportation and environmental protection priorities. The goal of the pilot is to facilitate the incorporation of environmental concerns into the regional transportation planning process. The pilot will also foster interagency cooperation, enhancing the quality of the tools, guidance, and project management techniques needed to evaluate project impacts. As a first step, an interagency needs assessment and a team-building workshop were conducted in 1999. (

Florida DOT's Efficient Transportation Decision-Making (ETDM) Process, Peter McGilvray, Environmental Resource Manager, Florida DOT,, 850-410-5885
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), FHWA, and all of the Federal and State resource agencies with which FDOT works have joined in a cooperative effort to completely redesign the planning, permitting, and project review process to more efficiently and effectively time and incorporate environmental data, project review, and the technical assistance that resource agencies can provide. The resulting Efficient Transportation Decision-Making process (ETDM) links land use, transportation, and environmental resource planning, and facilitates early and interactive involvement to produce better and more consensual environmental outcomes. Through electronic data sharing and comment entry, maps can be viewed and comments filed and read by others online at various stages in the process. As a result, FDOT expects more efficient and effective environmental stewardship, along with considerable reductions in delays, project changes, and challenges associated with project development, permitting, and consultation. The process is expected to improve the quality of decisions and environmental investments.

The ETDM process involves two environmental screening stages, one of the long-range plan and another of the transportation improvement program. Consequently, both screens will occur considerably earlier in the project development process than they do now. Environmental Technical Advisory Teams (ETAT) in each of Florida's seven districts will coordinate the screens. The ETATs will consist of FDOT district staff and planning and regulatory staff from the resource agencies, a staffing commitment that FDOT plans to support. Each ETAT representative will have responsibility to coordinate internally at their agency and represent responses and positions to FDOT and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). During planning, the team's role is advisory and includes input on regulatory and planning programs and priorities, avoidance and minimization options, and mitigation alternatives, leading to more accurate estimation of project costs. Secondary and cumulative effects are evaluated on a project and systemwide basis in connection with the planning screen, so that the interrelationship between land use, ecosystem management, and mobility plans can be considered in integrated planning across the agencies.

The role of the ETAT changes from advisor during planning to coordinator during project development. The ETAT input covers agency scoping requirements, and ETAT members coordinate with their agency and FDOT's project managers during project development to issue construction permits simultaneously with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) record of decision. As a project advances into the project development and design phases, the ETAT continues to provide project input and technical assistance to the project sponsor to satisfy permit requirements under multiple environmental laws. The ETAT also identifies, defines, and participates in technical studies needed for permitting decisions. Criteria are being developed for categorically excluding certain projects from permitting, enabling early approvals for less complex projects.

The overall process is expected to reduce the number of projects subject to detailed reviews and to enable teams to focus on key environmental issues in their districts. An electronic database system provides the vehicle for information exchange to and from ETAT members regarding project plans, impacts, and recommendations or requirements. The database system will be housed at the University of Florida GeoPlan Center, and all project and resource data will reside in the GeoPlan Center's Florida Geographic Data Library (FGDL). All geographic information systems (GIS) analyses will be performed within the FGDL system so that ETAT members will only need an Internet connection to view and comment on the results of GIS analyses.

Applications: National Initiatives

CSS Self-Assessment Guide and Workshop, FHWA, Office of Infrastructure, Barbara Bauer (
This project will develop a technical assistance guide and self-assessment tool to assist agencies with assessing their progress with advancing CSS integration. It will assist agencies in assessing how the CSS philosophy and principles have been institutionally integrated within their agency and progress with advancing the application of these principles in all aspects of planning and project development. This project includes development of outreach material and workshops, including a one-day workshop to provide guidance to agency managers and a one-day workshop to provide guidance to practitioners on how to work with the assessment tool. The draft guide, assessment tool, and outreach material will be available in late 2007. The workshops will be developed per feedback received on the guide and tool.

CSS Implementation Assessment, FHWA, Office of Infrastructure, Barbara Bauer (
One of the objectives under the Vital Few Goal of improved environmental stewardship is to increase the number of State and Federal agencies implementing CSS. Beginning in FY2007, FHWA Division Offices will assess agencies' progress toward implementing CSS principals throughout the planning, project development, construction, operations, and maintenance of transportation projects and systems. FHWA has set a target of 20 Divisions that would achieve a level of full integration FY2007. The rest of the Divisions should complete the assessment as they work to achieve, maintain, or advance their CSS goals during FY 2007. This assessment complements the joint commitment by AASHTO and FHWA at the National CSS Peer Exchange, held in Baltimore in September 2006, to elevate the importance of CSS and support State and Division action plans. This assessment of State progress will help FHWA gauge the success of national CSS programs, and enable it to better define priorities. The assessments are also important for the development of annual performance goals for the each agency. In FY 2008 and future years, all Divisions will be asked to conduct the assessment and set goals according to the revised CSS implementation criteria and feedback received. Expanded assessment criteria, examples, and support tools will be developed and validated during FY 2007.

Integrated Planning Initiative, FHWA, Office of Infrastructure, Barbara Bauer (
Integrated planning can help agencies to identify opportunities to address environmental impacts early in project development and to develop mitigation options that address the highest-priority needs in an ecosystem. The key characteristics of integrated planning include:

FHWA leads the Executive Order Interagency Task Force efforts and has a prominent role in the Task Force Working Group on Integrated Planning, which meets frequently to discuss integrated planning barriers, priorities, and progress. The Working Group has identified key issues and is developing a broad range of recommendations for helping agencies move toward integrated planning. In addition to the Task Force, FHWA is partnering with other Federal agencies to write a handbook for Federal field staff. The handbook will provide step-by-step processes, tools, techniques, and resources to enable Federal staff to work in partnership with State, local, and non-profit organizations to initiate integrated planning and deploy creative approaches to mitigation. More information available at:

SAFETEA-LU Provisions
The current transportation legislation allows States to use Federal funds to provide additional resources to Federal agencies, State agencies, and Federally recognized Tribes participating in the environmental review process. These funds are only available to States that support activities that directly and meaningfully contribute to expediting and improving transportation project planning and delivery. Transportation planning agencies (e.g., MPOs and DOTs) could explore how this authority could be used to support reviews at the long-range planning level.

National Highway Institute, USDOT
The National Highway Institute (NHI) provides training and workforce development courses for the transportation industry. In an effort to integrate CSS more fully into all transportation decisions, FHWA is currently sponsoring a review of course materials to update them to include CSS concepts and approaches.

GIS in Transport, FHWA
FHWA sponsors a Web site with extensive resources related to GIS in transportation. The Web site provides a list of GIS-related events and meetings, information on GIS training opportunities, GIS databases, and current research reports. GIS can play an important role as a tool for CSS approaches for transportation planning. GIS can improve the environmental review process and can further integrate planning and project development activities. Incorporating GIS into transportation activities allows for project alternatives to be effectively and efficiently evaluated in response to public or agency comments.

Geographic Information for Transportation (GIS-T)
Co-sponsored by AASHTO, USDOT, URISA, HEEP, this group organizes a symposium and series of workshops each year. This provides the opportunity for persons in government and private industry who are interested in the use of GIS for transportation purposes to get together and share experiences, see state-of-art software, and learn more about this field. It annually attracts about 400 registrants and additional exhibitors.

Environmental Geospatial Information for Transportation. An Exchange for the Mid-Atlantic Region. Transportation Research Board, 2006
The Transportation Research Board, in partnership FHWA, convened a workshop on May 3 - 4, 2006, in Washington, D.C., to discuss successful GIS data-sharing collaborations for environmental GIS applications used in transportation, discuss common approaches and issues, and consider methods to facilitate adoption by other organizations. Representatives from State and Federal transportation and natural resource agencies, local governments, and non-governmental organizations with expertise in natural resource planning and regulatory programs, transportation planning and project development, and geographic information specialists from the Mid-Atlantic Region attended.

Applications: State DOT Initiatives

California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)
While much of Caltrans' efforts are project and design oriented, its CSS approach does seek to ensure that transportation facilities are a community asset and compatible with their context. As part of a community-sensitive approach to decision making, the Office of Community Planning (OCP) was created. OCP seeks to integrate transportation, land use, and community values, in part through public engagement and in part through serving as a resource center on livable communities and smart growth. An example of this effort is the publication "Main Streets: Flexibility in Design and Operations." Caltrans won the "2004 Best Practices in Smart Growth and Transportation" award from AASHTO for "Context Sensitive Solutions: Changing the Culture."

CEO Leadership Forum-State Strategic Initiatives, Connecticut DOT Segment
Implementation of Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) as a part of the project development process.
CSS is a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to project development involving all stakeholders at the earliest phase of a project. The goals of the CSS process is to ensure that transportation projects are in harmony with the community and preserve those attributes that are important to the community.

What challenges has your organization encountered in implementing these initiatives?
The CSS process requires that DOT personnel and external stakeholders change their attitudes with respect to the project development process. The training of DOT and external stakeholders is perhaps the most critical challenge in implementing the CSS process due to the need to change attitudes. All participants must be able to understand the CSS process and realize that the process is collaborative in nature and, therefore, requires a high level of communication and participation. Engineers must learn to communicate-both by speaking and listening-in lay terms that the public can understand. External stakeholders must understand that the DOT is willing to participate in discussions that will lead to a project in harmony with the community concerns. The adversarial roles of both groups need to change and both internal DOT and external stakeholders need to work in a cooperative fashion for the good of the community and the project's purpose and need. Developing a purpose and need for the transportation project that adequately defines and addresses both the transportation and community requirements is another challenge facing implementation of a CSS process.

What lessons have been learned during this process?
Communication is the key to the success of a CSS process. Training of both internal and external stakeholders is an ongoing process that must be maintained for the process to be successful. The process also requires that DOT management have a high level of commitment and involvement in the process and this involvement must become a part of the culture of the agency.

What follow-up actions are needed from AASHTO, TRB, or FHWA that would help support these initiatives?
Continued involvement and support of agency initiatives in the CSS area. AASHTO, FHWA and TRB have the ability to provide forums for introducing the process to both agencies and the public. Development of best practices and continual updating of information on the CSS process and its implementation will help all parties to the project development process improve the relationships that are critical for bring projects to fruition in a timely and appropriate manner.

Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA)
MSHA's "Thinking Beyond the Pavement" (TBTP) workshop in 1998 introduced CSD concepts to much of the transportation industry. While much of MSHA's efforts remain project and design oriented, the TBTP process does seek to integrate transportation and land-use planning. TBTP supports growth management through its focus on transportation being an asset to people, communities and businesses, as well as an emphasis on environmental protection. The goals of TBTP include TSM, multimodality, livable communities, community compatibility, and provision of a balanced transportation system. An example of this effort is the publication "When Main Street is a State Highway."

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT)
MnDOT and the Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota, are working in partnership to expand use of CSD&S within the state. As part of an education and outreach effort, MnDOT cohosted the Midwest CSD&S workshop in August 2005, which included an "Integrating CSS into systems planning" module. MnDOT's public involvement program "proactively seek[s] early and continuous public input and involvement so that MnDOT is responsive and accountable to its traditional and nontraditional stakeholders, communicates effectively with the public, and makes the best possible transportation decisions . . . and enhancing the quality of life. . ." MnDOT uses tools, such as surveys and market studies, to incorporate public input into the long-range plan vision.

Montana Transportation Choices, Context Sensitive Highway Design (November 2003)
"Context sensitive design (CSD) is a set of ideas and principles developed and promoted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). According to FHWA:

Context sensitive design is a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach that involves
all stakeholders to develop a transportation facility that fits its physical setting and
preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic, and environmental resources, while maintaining
safety and mobility. CSD is an approach that considers the total context within which
a transportation improvement project will exist.

Real context sensitive design processes are those that:

New Hampshire DOT; Powerpoint Presentation, David Burwell
"One of the Vital Few Strategies is for FHWA to provide guidance, information, and training to States on 'integrating the planning and environmental processes' and encouraging context sensitive solutions/context sensitive design (CSS/CSD)."
"Strengthen transportation/land-use partnerships by applying context sensitive solutions (CSS) strategies to project development process, design, and construction."

Five-Year Building Program (Utah)
"Utah has a statewide, comprehensive capital plan, the Five-Year Building Program that is centrally prioritized by the State Building Board based on set criteria. The capital plan is well-linked with the State's capital budget. The Department of Transportation's (DOT) capital planning process involves multiple plans and is very thorough. DOT has made use of innovative methods to garner public input in project planning, including the use of truck-mounted billboards driven along corridors and other methods of bringing the public-input process to the public. The agency is also committed to seeking context sensitive solutions for projects, which typically requires significant public input. Monitoring of state construction projects is good, and monitoring of DOT projects is excellent."

Look Ahead: Multimodal Corridor Solutions. Planning in Advance of Funding (UDOT, Utah)
"...For that reason, 3500 South's stakeholders would have to share in the project's decision making as well as the responsibility for the results . . . Each agency is very good at its main focus, but not everything," says Angelo Papastamos, UDOT's context sensitive solutions director. "Traditionally, a DOT looked at roadway capacity and safety problems alone, not collaboratively. In the 3500 South Corridor, citizens saw other community needs, including land use, as an equally important consideration because this is where they live. As such, we needed the close involvement of the West Valley City government, which has the power to shape zoning and land use ordinances. To see how transit would meld in, we needed the involvement of the UTA [Utah Transit Authority]. And to ensure that the corridor's future fits with the region's long-range plans, we needed the involvement of the metropolitan planning organization [MPO]-in our case, the Wasatch Front Regional Commission."

Applications: Regional Initiatives

Thurston Regional Planning Commission (TRPC, Washington)
In 2003 TRPC initiated the Vision Reality Task Force, made up of elected officials and citizen advisors, to examine disconnects between transportation and land-use visions and the implementation of these visions. The Task Force also identified emerging opportunities and new partnerships and strategies that could help reconnect vision and implementation. The report, completed in early 2005, includes proposed actions for local agencies as well as new regional initiatives. An overarching goal is to harness market forces to enhance opportunities and minimize impacts along the I-5 and SR 507 corridors. Smaller scale projects involve the Capitol Way Corridor Study and Boulevard Road Studies, both of which are addressing multimodal and livability issues.

Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC, Washington)
PSRC has initiated a plan update, called "Vision 2020 + 20," which means to provide a shared regional vision that is clear, complete, and measurable. The major goal is development of integrated and coordinated land use, multimodal transportation, and economic development strategies. The effort is informed by past growth management experience, new information ranging from public health to energy consumption, and issues identified through extensive public engagement activities. PSRC's public participation plan calls to "ensure early and continuous public notification about and participation in major actions and decisions." "Destination 2030," the regional transportation plan, seeks to balance mobility with livability and sustainability needs while implementing the regional vision.

Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA)
GRTA recently completed the Northern Sub-Area (NSA) Study for 2,590 km2 (1,000 mi2) of metropolitan Atlanta. The NSA involved developing alternative transportation "futures" or scenarios, assessing the effects of alternative land development policies on the transportation system, and evaluating ways to increase multimodal efficiency on existing corridors. Public engagement to determine values and priorities was a critical element of all four parts of the NSA process. The study is a multijurisdictional approach to solving regional transportation system problems.

Applications: Long-Range Transportation Plans

Move Arizona Long-Range Transportation Plan-August 2004, Environmental Concerns Focus Group
Nine individuals representing State parks, National parks and forests, and air-quality planners participated in the environmental concerns focus group on September 26, 2002. Participants of this group identified the following issues: access and tourism-providing access to recreational facilities, parks, and forests is critical for quality of life and tourism to the State. At the same time, access to sensitive natural areas raises substantial concerns and the need to mitigate impacts of transportation. Context sensitive design and growth controls will help protect resources.

California Department of Transportation, District 5 Transportation Concept Report, Prepared for State Route 41, San Luis Obispo County
"Although SR 41 serves a significant purpose for transporting City of Morro Bay and Atascadero residents, improvements through these communities could incorporate local land-use policies in order to improve traffic flow while providing infrastructure that blends with the existing built environment and each community's historical context. Improvements to the route shall contribute to a circulation plan that considers the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles. Public improvements in the respective downtowns and incorporated community main streets should create a "walkable" community that encourages pedestrian, bicycling, and social activity."

Big Sur Coast Highway Management Plan 2003 - Highway 1 (California); Strategy B-2: Context Sensitive Solutions
Application of standard highway design elements that are associated with freeway and urban settings appear out of place on the Big Sur Coast. Exploring the possibilities with flexibility in highway design is necessary. Furthermore, stakeholder involvement in a collaborative decision-making process is key. The Guidelines for Corridor Aesthetics are especially relevant to this subject. B-2.1 Seek experimental applications for alternative aesthetic design treatments for construction of new features, such as guardrail, or retrofit of existing roadside features, such as paddle markers. (Caltrans, Immediate) B-2.2 Establish a reliable approach to improve effective stakeholder participation at various stages of decision making, from non-essential sign requests to alternatives for a capital improvement. (Caltrans, Immediate)"

State of Connecticut-2004 Long-Range Transportation Plan
From the long-range plan: "Continue to employ and promote the use of context sensitive solutions, including early project coordination and well-planned construction management, for all transportation projects in order to meet the needs of the State, its regional interests, and local communities during planning, design, and construction. Continue to seek public input early in the transportation planning process, and employ context sensitive solutions to preserve the character of rural village centers and natural and historic resources. Encourage transportation projects that support and preserve the community character, especially in rural centers and historic areas, through the use of context sensitive design practices and support of Federal Enhancement Program funding for streetscapes and recreation trails."

New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ TRANSIT), Transportation Choices 2025
"Transportation Choices 2025" includes a strategic vision to guide both development and transportation. This effort included using a multimodal travel demand model to evaluate different transportation and land-use scenarios. Outcomes from this process include multimodal, sustainable development, and similar smart-growth goals in the "Long-Range Transportation Plan," as well as programs dealing with environmental and urban center issues. NJDOT and NJ TRANSIT lead a multiagency partnership, known as the Transit Village Initiative. This initiative helps redevelop and revitalize communities around transit stations while also improving air quality and mobility. Designation as a Transit Village commits the state to the locality's vision for the redevelopment area, with state agencies coordinated by the Transit Village task force. More information available at:

Broward County Florida Long Range Transportation Plan George Hadley, Environmental Coordinator, FHWA Florida Division,, 850-942-9650 x 3011
The Broward County transportation planning committee used a range of improvements to upgrade the transportation system in Broward County, Florida. Together, these improvements are known as the "2025 Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP)," a multimodal approach to infrastructure development that had three main categories: air-quality improvements, livable communities, and nonmotorized transportation. The committee worked with city governments, statewide transportation administrations, neighboring counties, and ordinary citizens in creating a plan to increase bicycle and pedestrian access around the county as well as improving mass transit. The LRTP also included more than 40 meetings and public workshops in order to include as much of the public as possible.

INDOT 2030 Long Range Transportation Plan-2004 (Indiana)
"Refine the roadway classification system of statewide mobility corridors, regional mobility corridors, and local access roadways to provide a classification for special transportation areas where context sensitive solutions and special access management treatments will be considered to deal with the unique characteristics of the area."

A Guide to Transportation Enhancements. Quality of Life of the Community (Missouri)
The quality and feasibility of the project is a vital factor in its success. Describe how the project will complement existing facilities or future plans for the local area. Be sure to describe the context sensitive solutions that make the project stand alone. The project may provide connections between residential areas and parks, schools, or industrial areas. It may link more than one mode of transportation. These are valuable social impacts. If the project boosts the local economy due to an increase in tourism, the applicant has created a positive economic impact."

2025 Long-Range Transportation Plan, Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council (New York)
"The ITCTC is supportive of the application of context sensitive solutions in the design of transportation projects. Every project funded through the ITCTC Transportation Improvement Program includes a scoping phase to collect local input on the needs of the affected parties and the local community. A roads' cross section, including lane width, provision of road shoulders, sidewalks, etc., is determined on a project-by-project basis, depending on the needs of the area and the input obtained in the scoping phase of the project."

Tennessee Long-Range Transportation Plan. Goals, Objectives, and Policies, August 2005
"Promote and implement context sensitive solutions and balance safety, mobility, community, and environmental goals in all projects."

Long-Range Transportation Plan 2030, Utah Department of Transportation
Section 1.3 of the Plan - "In July 2001, UDOT adopted the context sensitive solutions philosophy (CSS) to guide our approach to doing business. Although formalized at that time, the CSS philosophy has been evolving over time within the department, as it has become clear that considerations in addition to highway design standards must be weighed in making system decisions that connect communities and preserve and improve our quality of life."

UnJAM 2025 Plan, 5/13/2004 (Virginia)
Context Sensitive Solutions: an approach to roadway planning and design that develops
appropriate, varying designs for different segments of the road as it passes through communities, neighborhoods, and rural areas.

Washington State DOT Centennial Accord Plan 2003
Resources mentioned in this document: context sensitive solutions/design and community partnership resources.

Applications: City/Local Initiatives

Dock, Frederick C. Dock, P.E., PTOE. "CSS in Network Planning: Minneapolis System Planning Framework" White paper for Institute of Transportation Engineers.
Available on-line at:
An initiative to better apply CSS principles to street network planning is underway in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The city is moving toward a framework for system planning that pairs roadway design with urban design (activity levels, access points, orientation to the street). The goal is to reinforce the place-making element of the comprehensive plan while providing mobility. The city compares street and place classifications to identify any locations where the two systems are poorly coordinated. Street types are compared with roadway functional classifications to determine if changes need to be made in the network plan to keep the transportation network in balance with the urban context and development/activity patterns.

Leach, Dennis M., AICP. "Context-Sensitive Solutions in Multimodal Urban Corridor Planning: Arlington, Virginia's Experience." White paper for Institute of Transportation Engineers.
Available on-line at:
Arlington County has developed design standards and policies for arterial streets that include linking land-use and transportation planning, applying form-based codes for development that help dampen traffic growth and better accommodate transit infrastructure. The initiative includes retrofitting a number of corridors to better fit community context and fit with goals for building an efficient multimodal network. There is tension between the Virginia DOT's goal of moving traffic efficiently and Arlington County's goal of high-quality, multimodal streets.

Policies: Environmental Streamlining

Efficient Transportation Decision-Making Memorandum of Understanding (Florida)
George Hadley, Environmental, FHWA Florida Division, Coordinator., 850-942-9650 x 3011
In December 2001, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) management, and managers from nearly 20 other Federal and state agencies, including the chair of the Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization advisory council, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to develop the efficient transportation decision-making (ETDM) process. The MOU is an umbrella agreement that outlines how the involved agencies and organizations will work together to implement the ETDM process, which will create and use linkages between land use, transportation, and environmental resource planning through early and continuous agency involvement. Electronic databases and communication techniques will be used during planning and program development for all NEPA decisions. In addition, as outlined in the MOU, an environmental technical advisory team (ETAT) in each Florida transportation district will coordinate environmental screening events during the planning process. At these screening events, ETATs (composed of Federal and State agencies) will coordinate agreement on the purpose and need, the alternatives for the proposed action, the identification of appropriate environmental studies, and each study's scope. The scope will then be built upon during the project development and environmental process. ETATs will also advise FDOT, FHWA, FTA, and metropolitan planning organizations in Florida of issues that need to be addressed in order to ensure the issuance of permits at the conclusion of the project development and environmental processes. FHWA and FDOT are now working with participating agencies to develop agency-resource-specific memorandum of agreements and standard operating procedures to formalize the ETDM process throughout the state.
Download the MOU in the Library section at: For more information on ETDM, visit

Transportation Permit Efficiency and Accountability Committee (TPEAC), Washington State DOT. Carrie Berry,
The TPEAC met as part of a five-year multiagency effort to improve environmental permitting for transportation projects. Since beginning in 2001, TPEAC has sought to improve the permitting process for transportation projects while maintaining high standards for environmental protection. TPEAC brought together state legislators, representatives from state and local agencies, tribes, business associations, the construction industry, and environmental and labor interests. TPEAC established several subcommittees to address permit reform solutions for permit streamlining. Working together and sharing perspectives allowed the subcommittees to better understand the complexities of permitting and coordinating issues involved in the successful delivery of transportation projects. TPEAC's accomplishments have improved transportation project permitting and established shared knowledge and trust among stakeholders. These accomplishments have brought more efficient and effective use of public resources and benefits for transportation and the environment. The Office of Regulatory Assistance and the agencies of TPEAC will commit to continuing to provide the leadership, support, and direction necessary to:

More information available at:

Policies: Community Asset/Smart Growth/Livability/Sustainable Development

Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT)
ODOT's Transportation System Planning (TSP) program involves early coordination with review agencies and local governments as well as creation of a public involvement program. The TSP is an important mechanism for integration of land-use and transportation plans. Its intent is to minimize human and natural environment impacts and to determine community values and goals. The Transportation and Growth Management (TGM) program is a joint effort of ODOT and the Department of Land Conservation and Development. TGM has published a number of CSS-related documents, including "Main Street-When a Highway Runs Through It," "Neighborhood Street Design Guidelines," and "Narrow Streets."

Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT)
UDOT adopted CSS guiding principles in 2001. In addition to the principles of transportation need, community asset, and environmentally compatible, four strategic goals define a successful project-"CSS for transportation issues includes a process that: (1) identifies community values early in the process, (2) understands the context, (3) uses collaborative decision making to connect communities and improve quality of life, and (4) balances the community, the environment, and the transportation system." Public involvement is a key element of transportation planning and informed decision making, which is one reason UDOT collaborates with Envision Utah.

Blueprint, Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG, California)
SACOG's "Blueprint" project is a comprehensive examination of regional land-use patterns, using cutting-edge modeling tools to estimate transportation, air quality, economic, and other effects of current land-use patterns, and to develop a comprehensive land-use scenario for the next 50 years. The project was created within a framework of public outreach and engagement. Blueprint provides a vision of how the region may grow and change in the future. In 2004 USEPA recognized Blueprint with a smart-growth award for its innovative approach to development that strengthens community identity and protects the environment.

Compass, Southern California Council of Governments (SCAG)
SCAG's "Compass" project is a regional visioning process which brought together a wide range of stakeholders to develop a consensus for a shared-growth vision. The project involved extensive public engagement, developing principles to guide the vision and process, and creating growth scenarios which were then evaluated based on objective criteria. Compass includes not only a preferred growth scenario but outlines key strategies for implementation and benchmarks to measure progress.

UnJAM 2025, Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC, Virginia)
TJPCD's "United Jefferson Area Mobility Plan" (UnJAM 2025) combines the "Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Transportation (CHART) Plan" for the MPO area with the "Rural Area Transportation Long-Range Plan" for the five-county planning district. Public engagement efforts started with brainstorming policies and projects, then identified and prioritized regional transportation needs. Development scenarios were created; data were provided on costs, benefits, and impacts; and a preferred scenario was selected to coordinate transportation and land-use plans. UnJAM 2025 is in many ways an extension of TJPDC's earlier work with CorPlan-a community-scaled planning model developed with TCSP funds.

Oahu Trans 2K, Honolulu City and County (Hawaii)
Oahu Trans 2K is a visioning process initiated in 1999 that has led to the development of the Islandwide Mobility Concept Plan as well as major multimodal projects, ranging from traffic calming to bicycle master plans to BRT. Trans 2K is a community-based process aimed at creating an integrated, multimodal transportation system. The process included the work of 19 community teams and hundreds of meetings, workshops, and forums to define a balanced, integrated transportation vision for the Oahu. The overarching goal was to create increased accessibility to livable communities, with the intent that solutions would be both sustainable and economically sound.

Mapping for a Millennium, Teton County (Wyoming)
Mapping for a Millennium is a series of charrettes aimed at redevelopment of important corridors within Teton County, which serves as a gateway to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and which is itself a tourist destination. These charrettes were initiated with the assistance of the Urban Land Institute and in coordination with Wyoming DOT. Transportation issues are closely linked with community preservation, affordable housing, and compact development patterns. The Teton County charrettes were part of the 2003 Domestic Scan Tour on land use and transportation coordination.

ETDM Process, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)
FDOT's Efficient Transportation Decision-Making (ETDM) Process is a commitment of early and continuous agency involvement in a collaborative and cooperative approach. The process involves two screening efforts, the Planning Screen and the Programming Screen, followed by project development. agencies, which review transportation projects and must resolve disputes with FDOT before a project can proceed. ETDM seeks to balance human and natural environmental consideration within the decision-making process.

Metropolitan Council (Minneapolis-St. Paul's Regional Planning Agency, Minnesota)
The Metropolitan Council has adopted the "2030 Regional Planning Framework" to guide and coordinate four regional systems-transportation, aviation, parks, and wastewater-based on smart-growth principles with the goals of creating livable communities and protecting the environment. Their transportation policy plan is highly multimodal, with a strong transit component, and strongly integrated with land use. Council efforts also include tools such as the St. Croix Valley Development Design Study, which provides localities with methods of creating walkable communities to accommodate growth anticipated after a bridge project.

Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC, Florida)
In 1995 the TCRPC adopted the "Strategic Regional Policy Plan," which illustrated the benefits, costs, and impacts of different development scenarios. The policy plan contains a vision section, and all of the goals and policies tie into the vision. The future of the region section discusses development patterns at scales ranging from regional to neighborhood. The vision outlines and illustrates efficient, context sensitive development. Related projects include a TOD for downtown West Palm Beach and a master plan charrette for north St. Lucie County.

Envision Utah
Envision Utah, in collaboration with Utah DOT, Wasatch Front Regional Council, and Mountainland Association of Governments, is engaged in Wasatch Choices 2040, a four-county land-use and transportation visioning process. Local elected officials and citizens will be extensively engaged throughout this process. This will involve assessment of various development scenarios in an attempt to reach consensus on a shared regional vision. Growth principles developed through this process will guide the long-range transportation plans of the two MPOs. Envision Utah's general process involves inventory, scenario development, quality growth strategy, and implementation, all of which include values research, surveys, workshops, presentations, and community design workshops.

< Prev | Index | Next >

Updated: 10/19/2015
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000