Tools to Identify and Define the Community Context of Transportation Projects

Focus Area

Context Sensitive Solutions


Community & Cultural Concerns, Environmental Process




Under $99,000



Research Idea Scope

A succinct definition of context needs to be developed within the community in terms of its aesthetic character, visual quality, cultural diversity, and how these elements translate into the existing context.

The research will identify the various techniques currently employed by communities to
articulate their goals and visions. The success of the techniques will be evaluated and
recommendations developed for the use by communities. It is anticipated that the recommended techniques will include stakeholder identification and conflict resolution components. It should also identify partnerships, and may identify the role of municipal/regional planning organizations when the values of the served communities within the transportation corridor are clearly linked and can be individually stated. The following questions need to be answered:

1. How does a community define its context?

• Existing context,
• Future context,
• Vocabulary to be used, or
• Hierarchy of community attributes.

2. Who defines community context?

• Public officials,
• Organization representatives,
• Neighborhood leaders, or
• Men/women on the street.

3. When should community context be identified?

• During land use transportation planning,
• Transportation project planning, or
• Project development process.

Urgency and Payoff

States and communities do not always possess the knowledge, organization, and expertise to identify and articulate the issues, needs, and desires that set the “contextual framework” in which a project or group of transportation projects will be undertaken. To contribute constructively to the transportation project development process, a community must first have a clear sense of its vision and goals. Furthermore, agency sponsors of transportation projects have a continuing responsibility to assure that the effects of the project on the landscape it traverses are identified, evaluated, and considered. The landscape refers to the built, natural, and social environment of a community. These elements contribute to the community’s contextual identity, which also includes the community’s vision and goals.

It is essential that the stakeholders understand the particular project, how it will be
constructed, and how it will contribute to the realization of the community’s vision and goals. It is equally important for the transportation agency to understand the contextual framework of the community. This proposal seeks to define and develop tools for the identification and
articulation of community context.

Suggested By

Transportation Research Board 2002 Environmental Research Needs Conference Notes

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