Context Sensitivity Strategy Paper

Context Sensitive Design Strategy Report Summary


Context sensitivity is a simple idea – taking the surroundings into consideration when making planning or infrastructure decisions. This represents a shift over traditional approaches which were all about "function" to an approach that balances the focused project purpose with community values and assets. Successful context sensitive processes both facilitate citizen participation throughout the process and allow greater design flexibility in the final product.

Context sensitivity processes integrate community objectives and values relating to compatibility, livability and walkability, sense of place, environmental impacts and justice, and historic preservation, while respecting traditional objectives for street design of safety, efficiency, capacity, and maintenance. Greater consideration is given to the requirements of all travel modes (including walking, biking, and transit) on all street types; less focus is placed on expanding capacity. These objectives are met through early and continuous collaboration with stakeholders, with frequent working sessions and communication efforts throughout the design and construction processes.

A sample of findings:

  • In a survey of state highway agencies, 23 of 26 indicated that they had benefited from the use of CSS, with 15 saying that CSS had not increased project costs
  • Benefits of CSS in project development include early problem resolution; better relationships with stakeholders/public; reduced project development time; and increased ability to complete projects