CSS Process Overview

WHAT IS CONTEXT SENSITIVE SOLUTIONS (CSS)?

Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach that involves the community and all key stakeholders in the planning and design of a transportation facility that fulfills its purpose while complementing and enhancing the context in which it is situated. It is an approach that leads to preserving and enhancing scenic, aesthetic, cultural, historic, community and environmental resources, while maintaining or improving mobility, capacity and safety. The CSS process involves all stakeholders, including community members, interest groups, elected officials, and affected local, state and federal agencies. It puts project needs and both agency and community values on a level playing field and considers all trade-offs in the decision-making and project development process.

The I-49 Lafayette Connector CSS process was originally designed so that the 21 commitments in the 2003 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) Record of Decision (ROD) were fully addressed. The commitments identified key project-related features where minimization and mitigation measures to address adverse impacts, in addition to potential enhancements, would be required to implement the Selected Alternative, commonly referred to as the 2003 ROD Alternative. Furthermore, the Summary of Decision included within the ROD indicated that the LCG Corridor Preservation and Management Action Plan would be the guiding document for the I-49 Lafayette Connector design and construction integration. This document also supported a CSS-based approach to achieve the overriding stakeholder goals of enhancing “community connectedness” and building a “signature place,” versus simply a “signature structure”, through comprehensive project planning, design and implementation.

The CSS process was initiated in September 2015 with the intent to focus community outreach, discussion and debate primarily on the CSS design features of the 2003 ROD Alternative, it became very apparent that the community desired a more in-depth discussion and evaluation of potential refinements to that alternative. Twelve years had passed since the ROD and almost that many since the suspension of the last planning/design process, and the community had undergone significant change. In response to these community concerns, the DOTD/LCP Team conducted a Concept Refinement Process (CRP) in place of the CSS program in order to gather input from the community and project committees to complete what became the Alternatives Analysis of the Supplemental EIS (SEIS). The process included:

1. Review and discussion of the changes that had taken place in the community;
2. Identification of potential refinements to the 2003 ROD Alternative; and
3. Review those potential refinements from both community and technical perspectives, through a three-tiered evaluation process, eventually leading to a recommendation from the Executive Committee (EC) for environmental evaluation in the SEIS.

In accordance with the long-standing determination of the Path to Progress Report all Refinement Concept ideas considered during the CRP were along the Evangeline Thruway corridor. The CSS process became the Alternatives Analysis for the SEIS to reflect the community’s desire to explore modifications to the 2003 ROD Alternative (e.g. elimination of Downtown interchanges, replaced by more neighborhood/Downtown friendly corridor connectivity, realignment of MLK Drive/Castille Avenue connection, simplification of the Kaliste Saloom and University/Surry interchanges to minimize airport impacts, height and design of mainline viaduct through the central area, cross corridor connectivity, multimodal accommodations, etc). The result was the identification of the Refinement Alternatives to be studied in the SEIS.

The I-49 Lafayette Connector CSS Program will strive to:

  • Reach a common vision for the I-49 Lafayette Connector with the community and key stakeholders through a collaborative process that addresses three of levels of community context:
    • Study Area Level I (I-49 Lafayette Connector right-of-way): transportation facilities and related features within the right-of-way
    • Study Area Level II (immediate 500-foot influence area either side of corridor): enhancement of community cohesion and neighborhood connectivity on both sides of the right-of-way
    • Study Area Level III (immediately impacted adjacent neighborhoods): assurance that Level I and II elements complement the revitalization program for immediately adjacent neighborhoods that is being addressed through the Evangeline Corridor Initiative
  • Prepare the CSS Design Standards Manual for the final design and construction of a I-49 Lafayette Connector that provides regional mobility, excellent community access and a variety of features that complement Downtown and the adjacent neighborhoods:
  • Structure the CSS process to facilitate informed project implementation phasing and rapid progression into final design and project construction

Area Level Map based on ROD Alternative

The I-49 Lafayette Connector CSS Program will be carried out through a two-tiered advisory group/committee structure. The DOTD has established the new Lafayette Connector Advisory Committee (LCAG), replacing the Community Work Group (LCAG) and Technical Advisory Committee utilized in the CRP and will continue to utilize the Executive Committee (EC), which is made up of the directors and senior staff of the Project Partner Agencies (FHWA, DOTD, MPO, LCG).

The LCAG and EC are scheduled to meet regularly and at key milestones in order to discuss and provide input and direction on design elements for the I-49 Lafayette Connector project. The design decisions made through this process will be compiled into the CSS Design Standards Manual for the project.  The specific roles of the two committees are as follows:

  • Lafayette Connector Advisory Group: 
    To provide combined community and technical input and recommendations on the various design feature areas and elements listed below under CSS Design Workshops.
  • Executive Committee: 
    To review all recommendations from the LCAG, neighborhood outreach and public workshops and to make a recommendation to the DOTD and FHWA on the Preferred Alternative and the various mitigation measures, potential design enhancements and proposed joint use development projects identified through the CSS process.

In addition to the two-tiered advisory group/committee structure, neighborhood meetings will be held at key milestones with each existing neighborhood coterie and other organizations along the corridor; Partner Agency Meetings will be held concurrent with CSS Design Workshops to provide input on mitigation measures, potential design enhancements and proposed joint use development projects; and Public Workshops will be conducted at key milestones in the CSS Process to provide input to the Executive Committee.

The work of LCAG will largely be centered around the conduct of six week-long workshops to be held during the first ten months of the CSS process. Each workshop is intended to examine, discuss alternating and prioritize design feature areas and elements that will comprise the I-49 Lafayette Connector. The schedule of these workshops is illustrated on the CSS: Community and Stakeholder Engagement Process diagram, and includes:
  • CSS Design Workshop #1: Core Area Mainline Structural Components
    • Viaduct Profiles and Heights
    • Bridge Bent Columns, Girders and Pier Types
    • Parapet, Abutment and Retaining Wall Options
  • CSS Design Workshop #2: Core Area Mainline Structural Components
    • Signature Bridge
    • Entryway Features
  • CSS Design Workshop #3: Evangeline Thruway Corridor
    • Grand Boulevard and Couplet Options
    • Core Area Streets and Connectivity
    • Bicycle and Pedestrian Features
    • Urban Design Features
    • Landscape Architectural Features
  • CSS Design Workshop #4: Potential Gateways, Under Structure and Adjacent Uses
    • North and South Gateways
    • Willow, University/Surry and Kaliste Saloom Interchange Treatments
    • Beaver Park Access
    • Joint Use Opportunity options
  • CSS Design Workshop #5: Corridor-Wide Features
    • Lighting Types and Options
    • Corridor-Wide Bicycle and Pedestrian Features
    • Community Art, Culture and Historic Reference Integration
  • CSS Design Workshop #6: Corridor-Wide Features
    • Corridor-Wide Site Furnishing and Street Furniture Features
    • Corridor-Wide Landscape Architectural Features

The CSS Design Standards Manual will document the Connector design feature areas and elements discussed, reviewed, analyzed, prioritized and accepted as project components by the DOTD and FHWA based on the Executive Committee (EC) recommendation of the Preferred Alternative. These recommendations will be the products of the 13-month CSS process discussed above, through all its community involvement, stakeholder outreach, agency coordination and Advisory Group/Committee work process.

The intent of the CSS Design Standards Manual is to inform the final design of the I-49 Lafayette Connector project and related improvements in regard to corridor aesthetic consistency, community integration and compliance with all stakeholder and community input. The initial design feature areas and elements of the I-49 Lafayette Connector were first defined by the community, staff and public officials in the initial CSS process that was not completed for the 2003 ROD Alternative.  These will be revised and refined through this CSS process.  These elements are key form-giving project components that fulfill the project’s mobility objectives and have the ability to make the project a “signature place” of significant benefit to its surroundings; establish community connectedness between the neighborhoods and various districts along the corridor; and provide a sense of community integration and cohesion through thoughtful references to the region’s history and culture.

CSS Documents