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Building a foundation for change: CS3 blends into agency culture
A sidewalk restoration project in Maupin utilized ODOT's CS3 approach.
A sidewalk restoration project in Maupin utilized ODOT's CS3
Meeting the needs of local communities, spurring economic growth, supporting environmental stewardship — these philosophies are becoming so ingrained in ODOT culture that they’re considered on nearly every project the agency delivers.
 
Most recently, these principles have been included in the new ODOT Practical Design handbook under the “SCOPE” acronym, which includes guidelines on safety, corridor context, optimizing the system, public support and efficient cost. The handbook pulls these ideas into a defined, step-by-step planning strategy. Before Practical Design, these ideas were solidified in the Context Sensitive and Sustainable Solutions approach, or CS3. Regardless of what you call it, these goals, and the structure that comes with them, are helping ODOT drive infrastructure improvements Oregonians will take advantage of for years to come.
 
Lissa Willis, ODOT project delivery training manager, feels that a good measure of success for CS3 is that you don’t hear it mentioned much anymore.
 
"It's become the way we do business," said Willis. "It's like the air we breathe, the water we swim in. The concept is well aligned with the agency’s values and mission."
 
The mission behind CS3 and Practical Design has always been a priority to the agency, according to OTIA III Bridge Delivery Unit Manager Ray Mabey.
 
"The solutions approach is about thinking beyond your specific specialty area and becoming an interdisciplinary team," said Mabey. "It helps us hold ourselves to a higher standard." He notes that CS3 focuses attention on "how" things are done.
 
"How would the public view these projects? Will it cause delays? Budget increases? How the agency responds to these questions is critical to our success," he said.
 
Keeping things moving
Randal Thomas, ODOT's statewide traffic mobility manager, recalls how ODOT successfully handled mobility issues during bridge reconstruction on two corridors to the Oregon coast between Interstate 5 and U.S. 101. With projects along Oregon 38 at the Elk Creek Tunnel and Elkton Bridge being constructed around the same time as work between Winston and McLain Avenues on Oregon 42, careful timing was imperative to maintaining freight traffic to and from the coast.
 
"There were no detours on one while we were working on the other," said Thomas. 
 
Thomas feels mobility considerations like these reflect a change in ODOT culture that can be attributed to CS3.
 
"We have upfront communications with key stakeholders about delays to ensure we’re keeping people moving," he said. "CS3 allows us to focus on partnering with our constituents and citizens to look at the needs of the community we’re serving."
 
Streamlining the process
The structure of Practical Design and CS3 can also be found in resources such as agency manuals and training programs about project delivery. The Programmatic Agreements Reporting and Implementation Team, a collaboration between 11 state and federal regulatory agencies, is a direct result of CS3. It streamlined the bridge program’s permitting process to allow for more efficient timelines and flexibility in construction.
 
The PARIT was helpful in developing the Interstate 84 Corridor Strategy, a set of design guidelines for construction in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The CS3 approach is evident in this strategy, which coordinates the needs of the local community and the environment. ODOT is the first transportation agency in the nation to develop a comprehensive sustainability plan to bring tactics such as recycling and considered use of resources to the forefront of every project. Taking the time to examine how design and construction of a bridge will affect its natural surroundings is just one piece of a larger, detailed puzzle. 
 
"CS3 has been a tremendously successful way of delivering a huge body of work," said Hal Gard, ODOT’s geo-environmental section manager. "It’s a unifying principle that allows us to undertake a daunting task."
 
Making over Maupin
A recent ODOT project in Maupin illustrates how strong community involvement helped the project team address local needs while keeping delivery on time and on budget.


A long stretch of sidewalk through Maupin's busy downtown corridor was deteriorating and needed to be repaved — not only for the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, but to help improve the face of a small tourist town known for its lively fishing and rafting communities. The ODOT project team realized, however, that restoring the sidewalk was impossible without also repaving the roads due to mismatched roadway crowns.
 
"To repair the sidewalk opened up a huge range of issues," said Gary Farnsworth, area manager for the Lower John Day and Central Oregon regions. "Nothing was uniform, nothing fit together. It was completely about having to look at every inch in front of a store and at each threshold."
 
With a limited budget, the team had to "make certain we got the most bang for our buck regarding the overall system," said Cathy Nelson, ODOT Technical Services manager and chief engineer.
 
ODOT worked closely with the mayor, city council, individual residents and business owners. One by one, the agency assured the community that the new sidewalk improvements would match aesthetically with existing surroundings and architecture, and that traffic would move as freely as possible during construction.
 
"They all understood the goal of the project. They understood the common vision," Farnsworth said. "The response has been overwhelming — it’s absolutely supported and appreciated by the community."
 
"We’re bound to failure if we don’t involve the right people,” he continued. “We need direct feedback from the people we support to help us meet their needs."
 
This includes people outside and inside of ODOT. That’s why it’s a top priority for the agency to ensure its employees have the right tools and negotiation skills to work toward a universal, community-oriented goal. 
 
"It’s a very collaborative process — there’s a lot of give and take," Nelson said. "CS3 helps us stay focused and helps us evolve. As engineers we need to meet the transportation needs of Oregon. We need to navigate those possibilities as effectively as possible."