A street can be much more than just a route from Point A to Point B; indeed, streets can be truly great places when a variety of needs, uses, and modes are planned for. Fortunately, the Federal Highway Association (FHWA) has recognized that wider, straighter, faster planning strategies do not work for every road, leading to the creation of the Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) program, which aims to create thoroughfares that are more responsive to local needs.

From the FHWA’s website:

As citizens’ expectations for transportation projects have risen, so too has awareness of community needs among transportation planners and roadway designers. The question now becomes, “how do we create projects that are broadly supported and meet a range of needs?” The collaborative Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) approach is an answer to that question. With the CSS approach, interdisciplinary teams work with public and agency stakeholders to tailor solutions to the setting; preserve scenic, aesthetic, historic, and environmental resources; and maintain safety and mobility. The goal of FHWA’s CSS program is to deliver a program of transportation projects that is responsive to the unique character of the communities it serves. In short, CSS supports livable communities and sustainable transportation.

A team including our own Gary Toth and Aurash Khawarzad recently led a CSS team in re-thinking Denver’s Brighton Boulevard, which was chosen as one of four pilot sites in the CSS Champions program. Brighton Boulevard currently serves as a busy arterial connection between downtown Denver and its eastern suburbs. The road is surrounded mostly by industrial properties, and tensions have arisen as the city moves forward with plans to redevelop the corridor into a more walkable, livable area.

As the desire to create more multi-use neighborhoods becomes increasingly pervasive, more and more cities will be facing the same kinds of challenges that Denver is facing on Brighton Boulevard. Above is a new video, produced for PPS by Khawarzad, that illustrates how the CSS process works directly with local stakeholders to reconcile conflicting needs. If you think that your community could benefit from this approach, email gtoth@pps.org.