Maine DOT’s Approach to CSS
What is CSS?
Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach that involves all stakeholders in providing a transportation facility that fits its setting. This approach leads to preserving and enhancing scenic, aesthetic, historic, community, and environmental resources, while improving or maintaining safety, mobility, and infrastructure conditions.
Why does MaineDOT utilize CSS?
Transportation facilities (highways, bridges, airports, walking trails, intermodal facilities, etc.) impact communities in ways beyond facilitating travel from one point to another. These facilities are integral components to the regional landscape and as such construction or modifications to them could have positive or adverse impacts.
CSS at MaineDOT
MaineDOT’s utilization of CSS is a dynamic process reflective of the uniqueness of different communities in Maine as well as features that may be exclusive of a specific transportation facility. Nevertheless, CSS projects in Maine typically following the steps:
- Problem Identification: Could be from a municipal, public or stakeholder request, safety concerns, engineering assessments, legislation, etc.
- Formation of Multidisciplinary Teams: Will vary by project but could include members with experience in disciplines including but not limited to planning, appraissing, engineering, historic resources, facilitation, biology, arborism, etc. Additional team members may be added at different phases as necessary.
- Stakeholder Identification: Typical examples include abutting land owners, municipal officials, business owners and commuters reliant upon transportation facilities, local advocay groups, general public, etc.
- Purpose & Need Identification: This is an articulation of the problem statement without identifying a particular solution. For instance, a project's purpose and need would be something such as to improve safety and mobility at an intersection with multiple crases in a manner that reflects local cultural values.
- Stakeholder Outreach Plan: Based on proven techniques in different locations in Maine, develop a project specific plan likely to include multiple strategies. Some examples could indlude a project specific advisory group, design work shops, series of public meetings, media, the Internet, direct mail, surveys, etc.
- Alternative Identification/ Evaluation: Through a process consistent with the outreach plan, develop and evaluate the feasibility and viability of different alternatives based on a project’s purpose and need.
- Policy Decision: If a viable alternative is identified, it will compete for funding for design and construction. If a viable and feasible alternative cannot be identified, MaineDOT will evaluate whether or not a css process should continue of if the project should be cancelled.
- Interlocal Agreement: If a viable solution is identified, any commitments from state agencies, local municipalities and other stakeholders as needed will be documented in a local agreement.
- Design: Project will begin formal design with a continued information outreach process. If during design, the selected alternative is found to be unviable, the effort could revert back to step 7.
- Construction: Project will proceed to construction reflecting any prior project commitments from the interlocal agreement. If during construction, prior commitments or the selected alternative are found unviable, the effort could revert back to step 7.
- Evaluation: Post construction, MaineDOT staff will follow-up with a project evaluation process tailored to the specific community in order to identify areas where the process worked and opportunity for improvement which will be implemented in future efforts.
Congress, the Federal Highway Administration, governors, state legislatures, professional organizations, and state and local transportation agencies have all played an important part in the development of CSS, including addressing tort liability issues. Compromising safety, failure to use professional judgment, and similar issues that carry professional liability and that could encourage lawsuits have been constant concerns and companions to all discussions of Context Sensitive Solutions. CSS also provides a mechanism to meet the legal requirements for stakeholder involvement in the Maine Sensible Transportation Policy Act (STPA), the federal Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
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