At the conception of the Interstate system over 50 years ago, connecting America was the agreed-upon goal of the nation's transportation officials. The Illinois transportation program, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the myriad local transportation agencies, has since accomplished the goal of safely and effectively connecting the citizens of Illinois with each other, and connecting Illinois to the rest of the country. But this success has itself changed Illinoisans' views of what they want from IDOT today. Issues such as traffic congestion from home to work, suburban sprawl, preservation of scenic landscapes and historic neighborhoods, and the ability to use our transportation system to walk, bike, and access public transit are now much higher priorities in terms of what people expect from transportation policy.
Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) aims at addressing these new concerns, and making sure that our transportation projects are designed to improve the quality of life for all who have a stake in the system. Travelers, communities, businesses, elected officials and many others are all "stakeholders" in our transportation system. Since these issues can be complex, the CSS process works as a partnership between IDOT and stakeholders to come up with working solutions to our transportation needs. Stakeholders help IDOT understand their needs for, and concerns about, our transportation system. IDOT can then take this input, along with all of its other work and
Sherry Phillips, Plans Project Engineer for IDOT answers the following questions:
Public Act 93-0545 was passed in 2003 instructing IDOT to adopt CSS principles in its planning and design of major projects. IDOT still must make the ultimate choices about a project. Safety, the integrity of the transportation system, and good stewardship of the public's transportation dollars all remain IDOT's responsibilities. However, thorough stakeholder involvement can contribute to these decisions, and lead to a general consensus about the choices made.
IDOT has been developing, over many years, methods for involving stakeholders in its decisions, and CSS policy looks to make this a regular process for important projects. The CSS approach would involve stakeholders early and often throughout the process, especially before major decisions are made. The information gained from partnering with stakeholders is then used by IDOT to craft an informed solution to the transportation issue. This informed solution should also be a consensus solution, between stakeholders and IDOT. To view, IDOT’s policy, please click here.
Ron Jost, Vice President of Strategic and Faculty Planning at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria talks about his CSS experience covering the following topics:
Can you provide some examples of specific issues that were addressed in the early stages?
The federal government, through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is encouraging states to adopt the CSS approach to transportation planning and design.
The FHWA implemented, in 1997, a pilot project for CSS, using CSS techniques on transportation projects in five states across the country: Kentucky, Utah, Minnesota, Maryland, and Connecticut. (Please visit the FHWA's CSS website for further details.) All of these states have since adopted the CSS approach in their transportation decision-making.
Currently, 43 out of the 50 states have some sort of CSS policy or program.
The FHWA has published a guidebook for using the CSS approach and techniques. View the FHWA's explanation and definition of CSS, Flexibility in Highway Design.
A well-organized public involvement program outlines the techniques and practices that can focus public dialogue and local involvement in a project in a productive and useful way. Public involvement helps guide project development to meet the overall public interest by building consensus around a single plan of action, and is a key element of project implementation strategy.
Natural and human environmental issues have become key components of most infrastructure projects. Obtaining public input and understanding community needs benefit the environmental review process. In addition, a forum is provided to address community concerns, questions about design standards, project delivery and management issues. This forum facilitates consensus for the eventual decision and saves costs by incorporating social, economic, and environmental considerations early in the process when it is easier to accommodate change.
Applying appropriate design criteria, policies, and procedures for design decision-making for a project is applied on a project specific basis. Best practices for risk management are employed to minimize chances of a tort lawsuit being successful. Minimizing tort claims and support good decisions should be a concern of all stakeholders.
For more information regarding IDOT's CSS policy and CSS training classes, please contact:
John A. Baranzelli
Acting Bureau Chief of Design and Environment
Division of Highways
Illinois Department of Transportation
2300 S. Dirksen Parkway
Springfield, IL 62764