How State Departments of Transportation Integrate Context-Sensitive Solutions

State departments of transportation (DOTs) are charged with the difficult task of creating roads and streets that best accommodate their customers’ wide variety of needs. Using Context-Sensitive Solutions can help streamline this process of prioritizing, and then addressing, user demands. There are several ways that state departments of transportation integrate the CSS philosophy into their work.

Education – Providing transportation officials with appropriate training on CSS principles and techniques is key.  Officials that are familiar with CSS will be better able to identify projects that could benefit from the CSS approach. Therefore, many state departments of transportation provide their employees and partner organizations with CSS classes, conferences, and workshops.

Public Involvement – Community input is a core tenet of CSS that state DOT’s use to ensure transportation projects best meet the needs and expectations of their customers. The channel of communication between transportation officials and community members is established through various means. Commonly used methods include planning groups, presentations, small group stakeholder meetings, e-newsletters, social media, and the establishment of citizen advisory committees. The Delaware Department of Transportation has also developed an app that helps citizens connect to news, events, traffic and travel information from via their cellphones. Each state DOT has the opportunity to craft its own public engagement policy, which may or may not include any of the above strategies. However, all state DOT’s that are committed to implementing the CSS philosophy do encourage citizen engagement to voice their opinions and concerns.

Flexibility – Context-Sensitive Solutions by definition is not a one-size-fit all approach for designing transportation systems. For example, the CSS philosophy promotes multi-modal transportation, but being in accordance with CSS does not mean establishing bike lines on every stretch of road.  Flexibility in design also means that state DOTs explore all options, and do not simply settle for the most familiar design. An example of this flexibility was the installation of visually appealing guardrails on Connecticut’s Merritt Parkway instead of the more frequently used steel version. This simple consideration helped preserve the Parkway’s aesthetic beauty while, at the same time, improving its safety for motorists.

Integration of CSS into DOT Policies and Design Standards – Official integration of CSS into DOT policies and design standards helps to ensure that CSS becomes part of the organization’s policy framework and its culture. CSS principles are relevant to a state’s long-term transportation plan, not just specific projects. Transportation systems that preserve environmental, scenic, aesthetic, historic, and natural resources can benefit citizens statewide when these ideals become part of the department of transportation’s official standards.


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