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Visualization for Right-of-Way Acquisition

3. Findings and Conclusions

Most interviewed stakeholders agreed that property owners are typically more comfortable with ROW acquisitions in instances where state DOTs are able to portray project details accurately and early during the ROW acquisition process. They also agreed that visualizations, regardless of the form they take, can improve the quality of interactions with property owners by allowing the owners to better anticipate and understand changes to their own and nearby properties. As one stakeholder asserted, the adage "a picture is worth a thousand words' holds true when it concerns the use of visualization. However, while most state DOTs currently use at least some basic form of visualization during public involvement efforts to communicate potential project impacts, few have extended its use to the ROW acquisition process. The following section suggests reasons why.

3.1 State DOTs Using Visualization for ROW Acquisition

ROW acquiring agencies that are pioneering the application of advanced visualization techniques in the ROW acquisition process have typically experienced positive outcomes from using visualization despite not having standard practices in place for doing so. Key findings identified that:

3.1.1 State DOT ROW practitioners have been introduced to visualization in several ways

State DOT stakeholders identified a variety of ways in which they had been introduced to visualization, with no one approach being recognized as more effective than another. Ohio DOT (ODOT) learned about the use of advanced 3-D graphic techniques for the ROW process through a consultant that presented an overview of its services to ODOT leadership. Afterwards, the leadership believed that visualization could aid in the ROW acquisition process, and acquisition negotiators began to make use of a consulting firm for some of their larger ROW acquisition projects. North Carolina DOT (NCDOT) began using visualization for ROW acquisition after a reorganization of the agency. In this case, the DOT director was already aware of visualization's use within other state DOTs for public hearing purposes. After learning more about the ROW acquisition process, the director recognized the benefits of using visualization for ROW acquisition and recommended that the agency's negotiators make use of existing visualization resources for their own purposes. Caltrans learned how other DOTs were using visualization techniques at an FHWA peer exchange. Caltrans was already using visualization techniques to analyze environmental impacts, but the peer exchange helped demonstrate best practices for applying visualization techniques to the ROW acquisition process.

Most of the state DOTs with which the project team spoke did not come up with the idea to use visualization for acquisition independently. In each case, an outside entity (e.g., DOT leadership, consultant, or other DOT office) was responsible for identifying, via peer exchanges, visualization demonstrations, and other meetings, possible visualization applications for ROW staff. However, this should not imply that all ROW, survey, and design staffs were unfamiliar with some of the visualization techniques available. Often visualization techniques are used for other stages of project development, such as public participation, and some ROW staff indicated being aware of these techniques. It had simply not been standard practice to use visualization for ROW acquisition.

Map of planned right of way acquisition overlaid on an aerial image of a portion of Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

Figure 6. Map of planned ROW acquisition overlaid on aerial imagery
of Chicago O'Hare International Airport
Source: Federal Aviation Administration, Chicago O'Hare International Airport Draft EIS.

3.1.2 A broad range of visualization techniques have been used for ROW acquisition

The type of visualization techniques used for ROW acquisition varies greatly among agencies. Some state DOTs have used comparatively straightforward visualization techniques, such as drawings or 2-D aerial imagery overlaid on ROW plans and maps in Google Earth. These applications typically require less expensive software, less storage capacity, and less technical computing expertise. Other DOTs have developed advanced visualizations to convey complex information in simple ways.

Opinions about traditional versus advanced visualization methods have differed depending on the situation. Missouri DOT (MoDOT) believed that traditional visualizations, such as a 2-D drawing of a parcel, would be sufficient if the property to be acquired could be purchased for a reasonable price. The DOT noted that although "problem properties' might benefit from an advanced visualization, those properties often are not known until the end of the acquisition process. In cases where a property turned out not to be a "problem,' advanced visualizations might drive up project cost unnecessarily. Another stakeholder commented that some ROW acquisition tasks can be completed very simply or routinely, and that traditional visualizations offer a way to accomplish the task effectively at effort levels commensurate with the project. Some researchers, however, have suggested that traditional visualizations are not always easily understood by the public.1 Most stakeholders interviewed for this study agreed that newer, 3-D media hold potential to enhance the effectiveness of project negotiators, especially for large parcels that might require more attention.

Based on their experiences, most state DOTs interviewed, including ODOT, Mn/DOT, and NCDOT, believed that advanced visualization techniques were superior to customary approaches that rely on engineering drawings and ROW plans in educating property owners, sustaining community relations, and avoiding potential lawsuits. According to these DOTs, property owners have sometimes viewed the plans simply as "lines on paper' and not always as the intended conceptual aids. With advanced visualizations, ROW acquisition negotiators have been able to more comprehensively represent and communicate overall "macro' impressions of projects, as well as their potential impacts on specific parcels. One FHWA stakeholder noted "3-D visualizations give the ability to show improvements from different and more natural perspectives.' ODOT pointed out that before using 3-D visualization was an option, appraisers and negotiators would take 2-D plans to property owners, lay them on a table, and hope that the changes could be properly communicated. This should not imply that these ROW agents were not thorough in completing their job duties, but that without advanced visualization tools, providing the level of detail required to ensure understanding was not possible. For example, sometimes ROW agents go into the field and stake ROW lines to show horizontal changes to the property. A line of stakes on a property may not always give the owner a feel for elevation differences between the improvement and the property that might be created. In these cases, advanced visualizations could be more informative and detailed than stakes in the ground or points and lines plotted on paper to show a proposed change.

Despite this feedback, the merits of low-tech visualizations, or those that do not involve 3-D computer renderings, for ROW acquisition applications should not be discounted. While some visualization developers might create complex images and multifaceted designs, such elements are not always necessary. In some cases, it may be beneficial to keep the visual concepts at a more basic level. MoDOT commented that it may be difficult to justify creating a sophisticated visualization for a project that only involves a few miles of property. Similarly, FDOT and FHWA suggested that, in the minds of the intended audience, a physical model may be a more tangible representation of a planned project, as it is more difficult to manipulate than a computer-generated model.

Image from Google Earth that shows property boundaries overlaid on aerial photograph of highway and adjacent neighborhoods in California.

Image from Google Earth that shows property boundaries overlaid on aerial photograph of highway and adjacent fields in California.

Figure 7. Google Earth images that show aerial images, parcel boundaries, and properties in California (top and bottom). Source: Caltrans.

3.1.3 Benefits of using visualization for ROW acquisition generally outweighed the costs

Several stakeholders indicated that benefit-cost analyses for visualization—and particularly those used for ROW acquisition—are rare and difficult to perform. In their experiences, cost effectiveness of visualization for ROW acquisition was generally based on a qualitative assessment rather than benefit-cost data. Most interviewees noted that under their current procedures, they do not have a standard process for feedback from the public and property owners. They acknowledged that having a way to do so would likely improve their ability to quantify the success or utility of visualization in the ROW process, as well as to gain support for its increased use in acquiring ROW.

Nevertheless, there was general agreement among those interviewed that the benefits of visualizations often outweigh the costs, especially when the costs are shared among all the acquiring agency groups that could benefit during the transportation project delivery process. The major benefits documented include:

3.1.3.1 Better communication of project impacts to property owners and other stakeholders

Impacts to parcels can be subjective, and appraisers and property owners sometimes hold different opinions about the level of damage associated with a given transportation improvement. Such differences in opinion can negatively affect the negotiations process. One goal in the ROW acquisition process, then, is to minimize confusion about project details, potentially circumventing contention.

Visualizations afford this ability by presenting more realistic and precise representations of the project scope and scale. For this reason, they can serve as an aid to help property owners better understand the real impacts to their property. According to Caltrans and ODOT, ROW officials have previously marked up technical engineering plans to explain project impacts, but sometimes found that property owners did not have the expertise to fully comprehend the 2-D plans. For this reason, some interviewees indicated that, whenever possible, they use advanced visualizations when speaking with property owners about ROW acquisition. Equipped with a laptop, a negotiator can visit a property owner, explain project specifics through the visualization, and then answer questions in person and in real-time. Visualizations might even help communicate to a property owner, as a member of the traveling public, a highway project's anticipated safety or travel time improvements.

MoDOT and NCDOT reported that bridge and interchange projects that impact large areas, and often involve numerous engineering drawings or are completed in several phases over a long period of time, can be particularly confusing for property owners. Visualizations enable the state DOT to communicate the context and changes related to these types of projects in ways not possible (e.g., from various angles, approaches, or times of day) with traditional methods. FHWA noted that 2-D plans alone do not sufficiently communicate elevation changes or cross-sections of properties to property owners. With the aid of aerial imagery and visualization, property owners gain a more comprehensive understanding of the anticipated changes. In another example, ODOT has observed that business owners are often most concerned about changes to access, visibility, and parking, property characteristics that are difficult to envision using overhead engineering diagrams. In addition to better depicting these project aspects, advanced visualizations can also describe project details such as the appearance of sound walls, driveway alignments, and grade changes.

An ancillary benefit of using advanced visualization techniques to communicate more accurately with property owners is improved or sustained community relations. For example, Mn/DOT commented that visualizations have helped gain local business and municipality support for highway projects. While their approval is not always required, their consent early on can help streamline the project delivery process. Interviewees frequently remarked that property owners appreciated when state DOTs provided visualization presentations, even in cases that were not potentially controversial or contentious. NYSDOT commented that visualizations can help alleviate intimidation that property owners might feel, suggesting that using visualizations can help the ROW acquisition process seem less "transactional.' NCDOT and Mn/DOT agreed that property owners, having seen a 3-D visualization, seemed to have less "anxiety of the unknown.'2

3.1.3.2Potential reduction in the amount of land to be acquired

Some DOTs interviewed speculated that using visualization while planning a proposed acquisition(s) could reduce the amount of land to be acquired. With visualization, ROW managers might realize that the proposed transportation project could fit within the existing ROW, potentially alleviating the need to acquire additional property. In particular, 3-D modeling may inform designers and engineers about existing site conditions (such as the property lines, infrastructure, and utilities present), enabling acquisition decisions, for example, on the amount of land to be acquired, to be made with the best information available.

In addition, visualization can help illustrate the location and number of parcels that need to be bought, ultimately helping appraisers justify cost estimates and explain the total budget impact of a given acquisition.

3.1.3.3 Potential lawsuit prevention, reduced court costs, and reduced damages

Although transportation agencies rely on experienced appraisers who follow nationally-recognized professional appraisal standards to determine appropriate levels of just compensation, appraisals are inherently subjective valuations.3 Such subjectivity can make it difficult to predict the impact of condemnation on acquisition costs, including the likelihood of an acquisition proceeding to condemnation, the cost of legal fees, and potential awards a jury might grant.4 Keeping this in mind, condemnation typically represents a last resort for agencies in ROW acquisition because it usually indicates property owner dissatisfaction and can jeopardize the goals of the acquisition process. Condemnation can also extend project delivery timeframes and overall project costs, resulting in diminished public trust.

NCDOT, NYSDOT, and ODOT believed that the risk of litigation could decrease when property owners better understand the impacts to their property. Although state DOTs proportionally experience few ROW acquisition lawsuits that go to a jury (based on the most recent FHWA data available, the condemnation rate in 2010 was 16.5 percent nationally, and ranged between 0.2 percent and 51.3 percent at the state level)5 , the cost and time commitment of those lawsuits can be monumental. This is particularly evident in urban areas where land prices are comparatively high and damages awarded to a property owner could be significant. Some researchers have shown that condemnation awards can add between 25 and 40 percent to basic acquisition costs.6 Determining which project(s) might result in a lawsuit is difficult, but most interviewed state DOTs agreed that the cost of creating several visualizations would likely be less than the cost of proceeding with one lawsuit.

Nonetheless, some acquisitions will proceed to condemnation despite attempts to negotiate with landowners, and a large claim could have a significant impact on a state DOT's project budget. In court, visualizations can help the jury better understand a proposed project's impacts to the property owner(s) and thus rule accordingly. Several interviewees cited instances in which visualizations were deciding, or mitigating, factors in cases like these. FDOT described how it used a 3-D physical model to effectively convince the jury that prospective changes did not restrict access to a business (a car wash), preventing a potential damage award of over $500,000. According to the interviewee, commercial and industrial property owners are sometimes particularly concerned about access, and visualizations are an effective way to communicate that the impacts of access adjustments are expected to be minimal. Additionally, FDOT believed that this particular court ruling also prevented additional lawsuits from being filed based on the precedent the case set, ultimately saving the agency millions of dollars.

NCDOT described another court case in which the property owner's counsel used a visualization to demonstrate a certain (and inaccurate) noise effect, which ultimately helped secure a decision in favor of the landowner. Although erroneous information was presented, the visualization made an impact on the jury. NCDOT did not have its own visualization to refute the argument. In other instances, visualization has even prevented cases. One interviewee recounted a situation that was settled out of court once the property owner's counsel learned that the state DOT planned to develop a 3-D model for the case.

In Mn/DOT's experience, visualization has not always expedited the direct purchase process or reduced the condemnation rate. This could be attributed, however, to changes in the state's eminent domain policy and not the availability of advanced visualizations. What Mn/DOT did report is that the public has been "impressed' with visualization products and the low cost associated with developing them. Mn/DOT commented that visualization presentations have "given the agency technical legitimacy in what it's doing and has helped build trust.'

Finally, since visualizations can help minimize negotiation time, thus maintaining project schedules, inflationary costs related to materials and engineering expenses might also be limited.

3.1.3.4 Fewer errors and better project coordination

One DOT noted that 3-D data provides staff with more detailed project information so they can better coordinate projects. According to the DOT, 3-D data reduces the number of errors related to vertical and horizontal layout. In one example cited, there was a twenty-foot gap in the design on a plan that the state had already certified. After viewing the project in a 3-D visualization, the project team was able to notice the error and avoid potential problems during construction.

3.1.3.5 Potential to amortize cost across several disciplines

Since many disciplines in the project delivery process will likely benefit from visualizations, the cost for developing the visualizations could potentially be amortized across the disciplines. If consideration of visualization techniques were fully integrated into a planning process that is inclusive of all project delivery disciplines (including realty and ROW practitioners), those involved in the discussions could articulate their respective visualization needs and determine how the entire agency could share the costs rather than charging them to one specific office or project.

3.2 Why Using Visualization for ROW Acquisition is Not More Widespread

Evidence from the interviews suggests that there are four principal reasons why the use of visualization is not as prevalent in the ROW acquisition process as it is in other stages of highway project delivery:

3.2.1 Visualization uses are unconventional in ROW acquisition

At a fundamental level, there may be a discrepancy among ROW professionals as to what constitutes "visualization.' One stakeholder indicated that "3-D imaging' was sometimes used synonymously with "visualization,' while others noted that visualization in the ROW context means "anything that can help the property owners understand what the changes to his/her property will be.'

Advanced visualization techniques in transportation settings have sometimes been viewed as public involvement tools, and less so as tools to aid ROW acquisition. This is likely attributable to limited or inconsistent intra-agency communication as well as a perception that ROW offices within state DOTs follow older data management methods and can sometimes be reluctant to try new techniques. The latter reason suggests that visualization staff should better market their capabilities. One DOT commented that although the staff members developing visualizations sit in an office nearby the ROW office, to date the two groups had not communicated about creating visualization for ROW acquisition. Typically, one of this DOT's discipline area employees will complete and submit a visualization request that clearly specifies what he/she wants the visualization to communicate. However, it was reported that the DOT' ROW practitioners had probably only had limited exposure to visualization, and thus it is unlikely that they were aware of all available visualization options (and their potential benefits). This DOT's visualization staff recognized this as a possible area for future outreach that would require management support to initiate trial projects.

One district or region within a state DOT may use visualizations or new visualization techniques, while other districts or regions are either unaware of them or are not ready to change existing negotiation methods already perceived as effective. Some state DOT interviewees indicated that visualization techniques for ROW acquisition had not been widely adopted due to satisfaction or familiarity with existing practices, and unfamiliarity with visualization technologies. For instance, FDOT commented that "the lion's share of our parcels can be clearly displayed through construction plans, an overhead view of what's coming. That will suffice for negotiation.' MoDOT questioned the need to spend additional funds to create visualizations when the agency historically has been able to acquire properties for reasonable costs without them. Despite acknowledging that visualization could be helpful in contentious acquisitions, MoDOT has remained reluctant to utilize visualizations for ROW acquisition, citing a fear that extra data collection necessary to develop visualizations would strain project development timelines. Ultimately, managers would need to weigh the pros and cons of this rationale based on project requirements.

Photo rendering of a building and the adjacent roadway configuration, driveways, and vehicle access.

Photo rendering of a building and the adjacent roadway configuration, driveways, and vehicle access.

Figure 8. Halff Associates Inc. images show roadway configurations, driveways, buildings, and vehicle access. Source: Halff Associates Inc.

3.2.2 Perception that visualizations are costly to produce or only useful for complex projects

Some DOTs indicated that very few projects (in one case, less than five percent) use visualization, and then only when there is a "high-profile' need. Visualizations were more likely to be created on projects where the cost of developing them represented a minor percentage of the larger cost. On smaller, low-budget projects, however, it was expected that the production of sophisticated, 3-D visualizations would be cost prohibitive given increasing pressure to "do more with less.' One interviewee said that a "six-figure dollar amount' for visualization would immediately be considered cost-prohibitive. In fact, several DOTs, including Caltrans, Mn/DOT, and MoDOT, cited labor, data-gathering, and training costs as the main deterrent to using visualization for ROW acquisition.

According to FDOT and MoDOT, visualizations, unlike ROW plans, do not necessarily need to be generated to complete the acquisition process and, thus, doing so might be viewed as an unnecessary expense—particularly during economically stressed times. FDOT indicated that the economic downturn had shifted the nature of their projects, and therefore, their acquisitions. Recent budget strains had forced them to focus on small improvement projects rather than new construction, requiring mainly simple partial acquisitions with little threat of condemnation. Several interviewees indicated that they had only considered using visualization in contentious acquisitions, particularly when they proceed to condemnation or when a landowner files an inverse condemnation suit and juries are asked to imagine complicated issues based on the plaintiff's contradictory descriptions. In these instances, the use of visualization "limited to specific parcels with unique issues that are hard to visualize' was recognized as a potential deciding factor in multi-million dollar settlements. Except in the specific instances cited above, these organizations could not justify the cost of developing visualizations for single properties, or those with a low risk of litigation.

This apprehension may be unfounded, especially when visualization development costs are balanced against considerations such as overall project and ROW cost; the likelihood that the property owner(s) are resistant to ownership transfer; the likelihood of condemnation proceedings and large damages; and the number of acquisitions being performed (per parcel visualization cost might be minimized with several acquisitions). None of the interviewees had collected quantifiable data on the effectiveness of their visualizations for ROW acquisition relative to the costs of producing them. In one example, none of the projects for which visualization had been used in the ROW acquisition process had been constructed, rendering measurement of ultimate success impossible. Another state DOT questioned the feasibility of conducting an accurate cost-benefit analysis, citing the individuality of acquisitions and an inability to control variables other than the use of visualization.

Mn/DOT, provided information on a pilot it conducted in 2007 to help landowners better understand highway construction improvements and corresponding property acquisition impacts. By assembling aerial photography, electronic highway design files, property lines, rendering, and animation, Mn/DOT created a 3-D video model of the "After Condition" for a proposed urban highway reconstruction. According to Mn/DOT's pilot project evaluation, although property owners believed the visualization cost seemed "reasonable' when broken down on a parcel-by-parcel basis, "[i]nformal, formal, and statistical product evaluations were attempted, but it was found very difficult to measure results of utilizing this tool for right of way acquisition purposes.'

In general, however, the development costs of visualization tools for ROW acquisition depend on several factors, not limited to:

Costs increase as visualizations become more elaborate and realistic, and begin to include elements like vegetation, people, or vehicles. For example, 2-D plan drawings, where the CAD drawings are already completed for design, that are overlaid on photos without animations typically cost between a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars including staff time. Three-dimensional PDFs7 generally require 1 to 2 days labor and cost $1,000 to $2,000 to create. Animations that one DOT produced in-house were described as being more expensive than 3-D PDFs, with costs ranging from $3,000 to approximately $25,000. The high-end of that estimate was based on the in-house development costs of a 3-D fly-over, split-screen animation covering a project that was roughly 5 miles in length. It required approximately 600 labor hours at a rate of $40/hour. In another case, Mn/DOT spent $35,000, or $406 per parcel, in direct labor cost to develop a visualization of proposed acquisitions along a 1.5-mile section of urban roadway. Though no evidence was found to confirm the assertion, NCDOT reported that some consultants have charged upwards of $75,000 per minute of animation. Instead, one consultant indicated that animation costs vary from $3,000 to $100,000 depending on the level of detail desired, whether images are available, the amount of coordination time needed with the DOT, and whether photo-realism is needed. Another consultant mentioned that an animation of one parcel, 1–10 minutes in duration, is typically about $15,000–$75,000, including time required to serve as a non-testifying expert.8 In most cases, however, visualization tools for ROW acquisition cost those interviewed approximately $10,000 to $15,000 per visualization.

Table 3. Approximate relative costs and development time frames for traditional and advanced visualizations. Two-dimensional graphic overlays are the least costly and time-consuming visualization to develop. Computer animations, which typically require the most time to develop, are the most expensive, ranging from $3,000 to $100,000 or more. Source: The costs and development time lines are based on information provided during telephone conversations between the project team and both DOT and consultant stakeholders.

  Visualization Tool Approximate Cost Approximate Development Time
Traditional visualization ("low-tech" visualization) 2-D graphic overlay $200 to $2,000 per overlay 1 hour to 2 days
Physical model ~ $3,000 per parcel 1 week to 4 months
Advanced visualization ("high-tech" visualization) 3-D image or 3-D PDF $1,000 to $2,000 per 3-D image 1 to 2 days
3-D or 4-D video, or computer animation $3,000 to $35,000 per video when developed in-house;
$3,000 to $100,000 per video when contracted
1 week to 4 months for lower cost animations. Visualizations in the $75,000 cost range might take 8-9 months to develop.

Some interviewees also cited the expense of purchasing the requisite software and hardware as additional cost barriers. Caltrans indicated that the computers of ROW practitioners are often "woefully inadequate' for visualizations and that presenting visualizations to property owners could require the purchase of laptops. According to Caltrans, "[e]ven when an enthusiastic ROW person who wants to try something innovative is identified, his/her computer is underpowered.' This trend, however, may be changing. NCDOT said that over the last decade some of its ROW offices have equipped agents with laptops for property owner meetings, and are even considering functionality that would enable agents to print property owner compensation checks in the field.

FDOT cited a secondary cost beyond the need to purchase additional hardware and software. When one of its physical models was admitted in court, an expert witness was required to testify that it was accurate. Although FDOT acknowledged that its ROW office likely had the capabilities to create or explain visualizations, it was not permitted to present the model already developed in court unless it was accompanied and supported by the testimony of an engineer, which is required under state law. This sort of uncertainty about potential extra secondary costs could dissuade agencies from using visualization for ROW acquisition, and encourage status quo practices.

3.3.3 Lack of internal resources to develop and display visualizations

All of the DOTs interviewed had some in-house visualization development expertise, ranging in size from two staff people in NYSDOT's headquarters to several groups spread across a number of districts in Ohio. Most, however, indicated having had limited experience developing visualizations for ROW acquisition purposes. They also noted that workloads were becoming increasingly strained and that staff sizes were not growing in a commensurate way. NCDOT pointed to the design and art skills necessary to produce high-quality visualizations, stating that when it had the opportunity to expand its visualization team, it had sometimes been difficult to attract potential staff with this requisite background.

Additionally, according to one consultant stakeholder, visualization software can be very data-intensive and most state DOT ROW staffs do not have the computer hardware, even if they had the time, to manage these data in-house. Likewise, most DOTs interviewed had no standard practices for using visualization.

3.3.4 A concern that visualizations might not look exactly like the actual project

Some state DOTs expressed a concern that visualizations might differ from the end project leading to property owner dissatisfaction between the expected and actual results. One stakeholder cited an example where the final project differed in appearance from an animation because seedlings, as opposed to the mature trees displayed in the visualization, had been planted at the project site. Based on this experience, a DOT might hesitate to employ visualization early in the project development process due to a fear that it could create an unrealistic expectation among property owners that the projects, when built (often years in the future), would exactly match the visualized representation. Additionally, it is possible that a DOT periodically revise its ROW needs as the acquisition process proceeds, potentially making the agency feel compelled to adjust and readjust visualizations created for the acquisition.

Additionally, one DOT exhibited hesitation in considering the use of computer-generated visualizations in condemnation proceedings, suggesting that "a technological presentation…brings up more questions in court.' This assertion was based on the notion that computer-based visualizations are inherently pliable and, therefore, open to manipulation.

Two-dimensional aerial photo of existing overpass conditions at an overpass in Florida.

Two-dimensional aerial visualization of proposed overpass conditions at an overpass in Florida.

Figure 9. Two-dimensional aerial visualization of existing (top) and proposed overpass conditions (bottom). Source: FDOT.


1 Hixon III, Charles . 2006. "Visualization for Project Development: A Synthesis of Highway Practice.' NCHRP Synthesis 361.

2 Evaluation of Mn/ DOT's "Right of Way Visualization Pilot Project' provided to FHWA via email, July 15, 2010. According to the evaluation, it is best to show to landowners any available visualization during initial field visit. Landowner comments on Mn/DOT's pilot visualization included "We're able to see projects as Mn/DOT does;' [the visualization] "relieved anxiety of the unknown;' and [we are now] "more comfortable' with the project.

3 Hakimi, Shadi and Kara M. Kockelman. Fall 2005. "Right-of-Way Acquisition and Property Condemnation: A Comparison of U.S. State Laws.' Journal of the Transportation Research Forum.

4 Jury awards are particularly unpredictable in partial acquisitions, where landowners may seek compensation for damages incurred to the remainder of their property (Heiner and Kockelman 2004).

5 The range of this statistic has been shown to vary based on certain acquisition practices, such as the amount of time given to landowners to consider compensation offers and the use of "quick take' procedures, as well as demographic variables, such as the degree of urbanization, education levels, and political party affiliation (Hakimi and Kockelman 2006). A "quick take' occurs when an agency acquires property prior to settling on a compensation amount in order to facilitate tight project timeframes. FHWA Annual ROW Statistics are available at www.fhwa.dot.gov/real_estate/uniform_act/stats/.

6 Heiner, Jared D. and Kara M. Kockelman. January 2004. "The Costs of Right of Way Acquisition: Methods and Models for Estimation.' Presented at the 83rd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, Washington, D.C.

7 See ftp://ftp2.bentley.com/dist/collateral/Web/Civildemo.pdf for an example of a 3-D PDF.

8 This consultant noted that visualizations for public meetings that might involve 50-300 parcels or more could cost well above $75,000.

Updated: 09/05/2014
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