What about the cost of CSS?
Despite these benefits, CSS typically includes a number of associated costs. It can be costly to facilitate robust involvement of the public and all stakeholders in a project development process from start to finish. Not only do all the meetings and extra layers of review have costly price tags themselves, the whole process is much more time-consuming than traditional project development. However, some advocates argue that in the long term, cost savings are often realized; by integrating more public involvement and environmental review into the process from the beginning, projects actually cost less and are built quicker. When public consensus is attained early on in a transportation project, litigation and redesign can be minimized, or avoided altogether, and permit approvals are expedited. Furthermore, CSS facilitates the often lengthy process of environmental compliance, and can stave off later environmental problems by addressing or avoiding them from the beginning. (ContextSensitiveSolutions.org)
Many of these benefits are difficult to quantify, and available research has yet to measure these aspects. However, in a survey which targeted state highway agencies for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, most of the responding agencies (23 of 26) stated that they had benefited from employing CSS. The benefits included early problem resolution; better relationships with stakeholders/public; reduced project development time; and increased ability to complete projects. Over half of the responding agencies (15 of 24) indicated that using CSS had not increased project costs. (KTC, 2006)
Although the academic research is minimal on the quantifiable benefits of CSS, its pervasiveness reflects the current climate in transportation planning and project development, as well as other areas of development and planning. Although CSS translates into several potential benefits, both from the actual project as well as from the process, these are difficult to measure and must be weighed against cost. Also, through their holistic approach, CSS and other context sensitive planning strategies open the door for several secondary and tertiary benefits oftentimes forfeited by traditional processes.
How important is it to improve a project's sensitivity to its context?
Do you feel that context sensitivity should be an essential component of all future transportation projects in the region?
Do you feel that there are circumstances in which it should be only a minor concern, due to such realities as expedited timetables and limited funding?