A transportation project that has been developed with a CSS approach is more likely to preserve community character, be less detrimental to the environment and natural resources, and add value to the community. Examples of this can be found in three projects: Arkansas Route 215 along Ozark National Forest, Cobblestone Park in Boonville, MO, and Paris Pike near Lexington, KY.
| Arkansas Route 215 – Ozark National Forest |
Route 215 is an improved two-lane facility, approximately 15 miles long, that provides scenic views along the Mulberry River, and access to campgrounds within the White Rock Wildlife Management Area of the Ozark National Forest. The route needed to be widened without causing harm to the adjacent river or wildlife management area, and resurfaced in order to limit the amount of sediment and gravel runoff impacting the river. Special construction techniques were used to reduce erosion and siltation, native stone was used extensively for retaining walls and ditch lining, and scenic overlooks were enhanced. The completed project resulted in improved water quality along the river, better access to the campgrounds, and enhanced viewscapes. This project is a prime example of how a transportation improvement can also result in environmental enhancement and added community value.
Cobblestone Street Interpretive Park – Boonville, MO
During construction of a new bridge over the Missouri River, a cobblestone street was re-discovered. The street holds historic value; it was utilized by mule-carts and horse-drawn wagons throughout the 1800s to carry freight off the steamboats up the steep riverbank to the businesses at the top of the wharf. The MoDOT partnered with several community groups and worked to come up with a plan that incorporated the street into an interpretative park along the riverfront, and it was built during the bridge construction. The park is now a local landmark, part of Wharf Hill which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and a source of pride within Boonville and MoDOT.
| Paris Pike – Outside Lexington, KY |
Paris Pike is a scenic route between the northern limits of Lexington and the southern limits of Paris, serving commuters and through travelers. The project entailed reconstruction of an existing two-lane road into a four-lane over approximately 13 miles for safety and capacity reasons. During a lengthy stakeholder communication process, the project identified several natural features (critical topsoil, local vegetation including some endangered species and mature trees, and local streams and water channels) as well as several community features (historic properties, stone walls, horse farm viewsheds), in addition to the rural topography. The project's design and construction incorporated all of these natural and community features through a variety of techniques and measures – multiple realignments, minimized cut/fill, timber guardrails, stone facades, extensive erosion control techniques and tree protection zones, transplantations of vegetation, and others. The Paris Pike is oft-cited as a prime example of CSS, primarily for its efforts to accommodate environmental and community character value.
CSS can result in secondary benefits as well. Projects may be able to implement enhancements that promote increased transit use, biking, and walking. These improvements might translate in decreased automobile use, or a change in driving character (similar to traffic calming techniques). Furthermore, CSS projects do not sacrifice safety, and can often add safety for other travel modes. Examples of this can be found in two projects: transit program in Springdale, UT, and Asylum Avenue in West Hartford, CT.
| Springdale, UT – the Gateway to Zion National Park |
Zion National Park developed a shuttle program in 1993 in order to reduce traffic congestion and illegal parking throughout the park and its gateway town, Springdale. During a stakeholder process to implement the program, stakeholders expressed interest in extending service throughout the town. The park worked with the town and UDOT to come up with a free shuttle-bus system that runs through town, picking up and dropping off passengers at parking facilities, hotels and major stops, and the Zion visitor center. The system's success allowed UDOT to narrow the main route through Springdale and the park, allowing for bus shelters and pedestrian crossings. Bike racks were placed on the propane-powered buses, and at stops. The roadbed, curbs, and sidewalks were colored red to minimize the visual impact on the natural landscape and "marry" the town and the park together. These efforts demonstrate the potential for a CSS project to reduce congestion as well as improve safety and community character by promoting transit, biking, and walking.
Asylum Avenue – West Hartford, CT
Asylum Avenue was once a four-lane arterial serving West Hartford, a prosperous, inner-ring suburban town which has had great success re-creating pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. With neighborhood input, the town decided to construct a median along Asylum Avenue, narrowing it to two separated lanes plus on-street parking on one side. Although ConnDOT characterized Asylum Avenue as a minor urban arterial, the context is residential, and supported it to be reclassified to a neighborhood avenue. The reconstruction of the road has transformed the character and appearance of the Avenue, and induced speed reductions, thereby improving safety, walkability, and pedestrian friendliness.
In addition, CSS projects can actually stimulate or bolster local economies. They serve as opportunities for improvements which can be incorporated into larger economic development efforts. Examples of this can be found in two projects: Rhode Island Avenue in Mount Rainer, MD, and Barracks Row in Washington, DC.
Rhode Island Avenue – Mount Rainer, MD
U.S. Route 1 (Rhode Island Avenue) split the commercial town center of Mount Rainer with a six-legged intersection and four lanes of busy traffic. Not only did this cause transportation issues, it hindered commercial revitalization in the heart of the community. Maryland DOT's Neighborhood Conservation Program, though close work with stakeholders, identified pedestrian safety and comfort as the key issue in this project. This was in addition to other goals of reducing stormwater runoff, creating a "sense of place" and pride in the town center, and increasing alternative modes of travel, especially transit. The project transformed the intersection into a roundabout, and incorporated landscaped plazas, pedestrian crossings and lighting, tree planting, historically-referenced bus shelters, and public art. In turn, the neighborhood has seen significant reinvestment in the town center, and decreases in crime. The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development has also been involved, granting loans through its Neighborhood Business Development Program. Some new businesses include a local food co-op, a bookstore, a café, a dance studio, and a Latino specialty market; the town has plans for a library expansion and specialty housing for artists.
Barracks Row – Washington, DC
Barracks Row is a six block stretch along 8th Street in one of DC's oldest commercial corridors. Despite its historic character, the strip had experienced economic decline with merchants complaining about deteriorating sidewalks and inadequate parking. A neighborhood group initiated revitalization of the street, first by winning designation as an official DC Main Street, then approaching the District DOT to find traffic, pedestrian, and parking solutions. With extensive public outreach and inter-agency coordination, Barracks Row was reconstructed to accommodate angled on-street parking, improve traffic flow patterns, replace streetlights, and pave sidewalks with brick. Additional improvements were able to leveraged, including a new public park, bike racks, historically-referenced street furniture and lighting, and extensive tree planting within new water-permeable planting strips. This combination of transportation and aesthetic improvements resulted in a safer, more welcoming environment which has stimulated economic reinvestment, with over 15 new businesses moving into the area.
Do you think that doing more transportation projects with context sensitivity would be good for the communities outside the immediate project limits? Why or why not?
What do you think are the most important benefits of context sensitivity?
Do you think that incorporating context sensitive approaches into more transportation projects would significantly benefit the region as a whole? If so, how?