‘CSS’ DESIGN APPROACH BALANCES
WANTS AND NEEDS FOR ALL USERS
WHAT IS CONTEXT SENSITIVE SOLUTIONS?
ith many wanting a stake in the
final design of the Waukesha
County Highway L/Janesville Road
reconstruction, getting everyone on
the same page was vital. To do that
the County used a process called
context sensitive solutions (CSS) at the
beginning of the project to recognize
everyone’s needs and wants upfront.
The CSS process, which began in
late 2007 and lasted approximately
six months, involved a broad crosssection of the community.
The CSS process for County Highway
L, which was managed by a
subconsultant with Ayres Associates’
input, used a step-by-step progression
through project development.
“It worked really well,” said Gary
Evans, manager of Waukesha County’s
Highway Engineering Division. “The
whole part of it is the notion of
informed consent, and I’d say we got a
lot of buy-in into what we were doing
with the project."
The CSS process led to the design of
an urban typical section with bike
lanes, additional sidewalks, storm
sewer and stormwater management
improvements, and upgrades to side
road intersections. Decorative lighting
and streetscaping were incorporated
into the design in coordination with
the City of Muskego.
The CSS Advisory Group included
more than 20 roadway users, from
County and City staff to business
owners and other residents. County
and City staff attended each meeting
along with technical staff from
consulting firms. Five CSS Advisory
Group meetings were conducted,
along with one public information
Context sensitive solutions (CSS) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary
approach that involves all stakeholders in providing a transportation
facility that fits its setting. The approach leads to preserving and
enhancing scenic, aesthetic, historic, community, and environmental
resources, while improving or maintaining safety, mobility, and
A CSS approach is guided by four core principles:
1. Strive toward a shared stakeholder vision to provide a basis for
2. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of contexts.
3. Foster continuing communication and collaboration to achieve
4. Exercise flexibility and creativity to shape effective transportation
solutions, while preserving and enhancing community and natural
The outcomes of CSS should:
• Be in harmony with the community and preserve the environmental,
scenic, aesthetic, historic, and natural resource values of the area.
• Be safe for all users.
• Solve problems that are agreed upon by a full range of stakeholders.
• Meet or exceed the expectations of designers and stakeholders,
thereby adding lasting value to the community, the environment, and
the transportation system.
• Demonstrate effective and efficient use of resources (people, time,
budget) among all parties.
Source: Results of Joint AASHTO / FHWA Context Sensitive Solutions
Strategic Planning Process, Summary Report, March 2007
meeting with more than 200
attendees in an open house format.
Jeff Muenkel, Muskego’s community
development director, said the
City used the CSS meetings as an
educational resource. The City tried
to balance its own needs with those
of business owners, motorists,
and residents. City staff also used
the process to discuss the future,
including expected redevelopment
and financial assistance the City was
able to offer existing businesses.
“Overall, it did get people thinking and
got a lot of questions answered ahead
of time that otherwise wouldn’t have