Illinois Department of Transportation, Erica Borggren, Acting Secretary
Patrick J. Quinn, Governor
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CSS Online Training Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Definition of Context Sensitive Solutions?

Context Sensitive Solutions is an interdisciplinary approach that seeks effective, multimodal transportation solutions by working with stakeholders to develop, build and maintain cost-effective transportation facilities which fit into and reflect the project’s surroundings – its “context.”  This will be done through early, frequent and meaningful communication with stakeholders and a flexible and creative approach to design, the resulting projects should improve safety and mobility for the traveling public, while seeking to preserve and enhance the scenic, economic, historic and natural qualities of the settings through which they pass. 

Who is a Stakeholder? 

A stakeholder is simply anyone who has a “stake” in the outcome of a project.

Stakeholders can include:

  • Home Owners
  • Business Owners
  • Commuters
  • Environmental groups
  • Opposition groups
  • Bicycle groups
  • Trucking companies
  • Emergency Services
  • Elected Officials

On what types of transportation projects is CSS used?

The CSS process must be used large transportation projects such as new construction, reconstruction and major expansion.    IDOT officials may also use the CSS process on smaller projects if there is controversy or if there is a major impact to the community. 

What are examples of projects where the CSS process is typically not used? 

Simple resurfacing projects and rural bridge projects. 

Can the CSS process be applied to local agency transportation projects?

Local agencies are not required by law to do CSS on their projects.  However, IDOT strongly encourages local agencies to apply CSS on applicable projects.  Additionally, local agency projects that request future state and/or federal money may be required to apply CSS to those projects as determined by the department.

What is the Department’s Project Study Group?

The Project Study Group is made up of IDOT technical personnel and may include design, bridge and construction engineers, environmental experts, and landscape architects to name a few.  This group is doing the work behind the scenes.  They will prepare for the public involvement meetings, facilitate the meetings and use the information from the public to move the project along.  The Project Study Group will adhere to the design and construction criteria that must be followed.

What is the Community Advisory Group (CAG)?

A Community Advisory Group (CAG) is an established group of interested stakeholders who provide feedback and advice to IDOT through the life of the project.    The Department hosts a kickoff meeting for each CSS project to describe the transportation project and to solicit members for the CAG. CAG members are then invited to attend meetings during which they will share their views and experiences as members of the community.

The Community Advisory Group may be limited to certain numbers of members for ease of facilitation.  For example, on a very large project three or four homeowners may be selected to represent all homeowners, and three or four business owners may be asked to represent all businesses, etc.  These representatives are then asked to keep their members up-to-date on the project and provide feedback to the rest of the stakeholders.  The CAG will be tailored to each project to ensure the best outcome for the communities while maintaining the project schedule set forth by the Project Study Group.

Who should not be a member of a Community Advisory Group (CAG)?

The media should not be a member of the CAG.  They may interview CAG members and attend meetings as observers; however, they should not influence the outcome of the project.  In certain cases, elected officials in a community should not be a part of the CAG either.  If the project is controversial, and the local elected officials have taken a position, the general public may not feel their opinion counts. 

How does the Department apply flexibility in design in the CSS process?

The Department utilizes the flexibility inherent in all IDOT design policies to meet requirements identified in the CSS process.  IDOT also uses judgment and creativity to craft the optimum solution for each project. 

How is CSS applied during and after project construction? 

All major decisions made during the early CSS stages must be followed in construction and maintenance.  The original Community Advisory Group should be maintained (if possible) and kept informed during the design and construction phases.  New members may be added as necessary.


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