FHWA promotes Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) as an integral part of its efforts to advance environmental streamlining and environmental stewardship. In 2006, TDOT developed a CSS Statement of Commitment that outlines its CSS approach. In summary, TDOT's CSS Statement of Commitment defines CSS as:
". . . a process to plan, design, construct, maintain and operate its transportation system in order to establish and achieve transportation, community and environmental goals. Context Sensitive Solutions balances safety and mobility and the preservation of scenic, aesthetic, historic, environmental and other community values. CSS is a philosophy of doing business that impacts both the project development process and project outcomes."
There are four core CSS principles and they apply to transportation processes, outcomes, and decision-making (AASHTO/FHWA March 2007):
The CSS approach is integrated throughout the project development process. It begins in the planning phase, even before the NEPA process is initiated, and continues through the environmental evaluation, design, construction, and maintenance and operations phases of a project (Figure 2.1). CSS is the responsibility of all TDOT divisions, in collaboration with stakeholders, including partner agencies, local governments and the public. Key elements of the CSS process are shown below:
The way in which CSS principles are met may vary from project to project. The public involvement and outreach efforts are scaled to the size and nature of the project. For example, large, complex projects and controversial projects may utilize citizen resource teams or focus groups. A citizen resource team is comprised of a representative group of project stakeholders familiar with the project area. The team members serve in an advisory role to TDOT and are responsible for providing input to TDOT about project issues and concerns as well as providing accurate project information to their community members. The use of citizen resource teams is one of the enhanced public involvement activities described in TDOT's Public Involvement Plan.
Involving a full range of stakeholders; early, open, and continuous communication with all stakeholders; and the development of a project that satisfies the purpose and need for the project are CSS principles that also correlate with NEPA requirements. Early and on-going coordination with the public and resource agencies should be summarized in the environmental document. The document should include a description of how the public was involved in the development of the purpose and need and the potential alternatives. This information should be summarized in the chapters on purpose and need and development of alternatives. A more detailed discussion of the public involvement that has been conducted throughout the project development process should be included in the chapter on agency coordination and public involvement.