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Visualization for Right-of-Way Acquisition

4. Recommendations

The use of visualization has not been as widespread in the ROW acquisition process as in other stages of transportation project delivery because there has been a lack of awareness among ROW practitioners of visualization's potential ROW acquisition applications. Visualizations have also been perceived as too costly to produce unless the project was confronted with complex property issues. Some ROW practitioners expressed concern that visualization presentations might not exactly replicate the look of the actual project, thus potentially damaging public opinions about a particular project.

However, there was general agreement among stakeholders and in the literature that the use of visualization for ROW acquisition purposes will continue to grow. This is especially true as the demand for information that is accurate and easily communicated (e.g., via maps and visual displays) increases, and funding and timelines are scrutinized more rigorously. According to those interviewed, visualizations can offer a cost-effective way to enhance the ROW acquisition process. Communication with property owners and other stakeholders about project impacts can be improved, potentially lowering condemnation rates and associated fees or damages. The amount of land to be acquired can also be reduced in some cases. Project coordination among transportation disciplines is encouraged, potentially reducing the likelihood of design or construction errors further along in the project delivery process.

Determining which visualization techniques are most suitable for ROW acquisition is less clear. Current literature and the stakeholders interviewed for this report indicate that there may not be one universally preferred technique.

The technical level of a visualization that would best serve a ROW official in the acquisition process is highly dependent on the issues and concerns of the acquisition. For purposes of negotiation with property owners, simple visualizations, including ROW maps overlaid with aerial photography that are geometrically corrected or sketches created with CAD software, are likely sufficient. This does not suggest that more sophisticated techniques be overlooked, but the simplicity and scope of some negotiations may not warrant the investment of time and resources that complex visual aids can require. Traditional visualizations might also be better suited for situations that demand extra flexibility, as making changes to advanced visualizations, such as 3-D simulations or video flyovers, can be costly and complicated. An advanced computer-generated video exhibit that guides viewers through multiple scenarios might confuse, rather than clarify, a project when presented to a jury due to the potential number of issues displayed in the video.

In instances where the scrutiny of court proceedings are a concern, software that can provide for high degrees of accuracy and easily incorporate new changes or present new views are likely better than photo-editing software. Similarly, advanced visualizations also offer useful means to demonstrate less complex scenarios, such as on-site traffic maneuvers, grading changes, partitioning of remaining parcels, or simple renderings of the completed facility, to many people over longer periods of time (e.g., looping video at a public meeting or presentation to a home-owners association).

NCHRP Synthesis 361: Visualization for Project Development1 reports that the current state of visualization within the transportation community is one of eagerness to use the technology but of minimal organization for its implementation. According to the study, transportation agencies nationwide were looking for guidelines and best practices for its use. To begin to address this gap, as well as the barriers identified in this research, the project team proposes the following recommendations for using visualization techniques in ROW acquisition.

Barrier addressed: Lack of awareness of visualization's potential uses in the ROW acquisition process

ROW offices within state DOTs should reach out to visualization staff to learn about visualization techniques available.

It is important to instill an understanding of the range of visualization tools available for ROW acquisition. Potential visualization users, especially novices, may not know what to ask for or how to write a task order for visualization services.

In state DOTs where visualizations are developed in-house, ROW practitioners should consider approaching visualization staff (and vice versa) to discuss potential visualization needs and capabilities. DOT leadership can help initiate these conversations, if necessary. In situations where visualization development is outsourced, real estate staff should request that consultants or agency ROW project managers present the agency with various visualization possibilities that could be specifically tailored to the ROW acquisition process. In both cases, the first topic of discussion should be to define the term "visualization." There are a variety of different visualization techniques, and not all involve sophisticated computer modeling or require digital graphics expertise. It is important for visualization staff to adapt the visualization technique to the need. Overlaying an ortho-rectified, or geo-referenced photo would likely facilitate the ROW acquisition process and not necessarily be expensive. "Home use" modeling software packages, such as Google SketchUp, are often free resources for those wanting to explore computer visualizations without learning specialized engineering tools. At a minimum, ROW staff should engage in early consultation with aerial photo and mapping personnel to understand how the most appropriate technologies might be utilized and best mapping products obtained. Without comprehension of the spectrum of options—from hand drawings to technologically-sophisticated computer renderings—this might not be feasible. See Appendix C for an example visualization request form that NYSDOT developed, which includes a synopsis of visualizations offered internally, as well as a listing of other relevant outreach and educational resources on visualization topics.

Use visualizations to supplement, not replace, existing practices or tools.

As visualizations are integrated into the ROW acquisition process, it is important to use them to complement existing practices, such as a property walk-through. Before visualizations were used, negotiators would often take property owners to the actual site of where the proposed property change was to occur so that the property owners could mentally visualize the impacts to their properties and ROW practitioners could more easily stake the owners' land. To the extent possible, a site visit with property owners should accompany visualizations, regardless of the technique used. Project managers should continue to offer owners the opportunity to do a walk-through of properties being acquired. Negotiators should allow owners to compare plans and visualizations of the parcels in question with the actual property. In these cases, more simple visualizations, such as aerial images and ROW plans, might be more effective since computer simulations cannot replace physically being at a property. Visualizations would continue to be beneficial for more complex landscape alterations, grading changes, or the addition of structures such as walls.

Barrier addressed: Perception that visualizations are costly to produce or only useful for complex projects

Identify opportunities to spread the cost of visualization development.

During the initial stages of project development, each functional discipline on the project team should consider whether a visualization presentation would enhance its role, for example, through improved communication with affected landowners and other stakeholders at public meetings or through enhanced ability to assess environmental impacts. Additionally, some visualization techniques, such as interactive 3-D modeling, can be a by-product of the design or other project development process (e.g., 3-D surface models are frequently developed for automated machine guidance during construction) and do not always need to be rendered with a high degree of realism to convey basic project concepts or certain effects such as the geospatial proximity of the project to the ROW or adjacent property. By having multiple disciplines involved in communication early on, the costs of developing the visualization(s) could likely be spread among all the groups poised to benefit from the presentation. More low cost visualization techniques could be applied to more projects.

Another pragmatic approach is to show existing ROW lines faintly in all visualizations created for project development purposes. This minor addition can enhance the usability of a presentation and demonstrate the added value of visualization.

State DOTs that are already utilizing, or plan to use, visualizations for ROW acquisition should develop a standard process for evaluating the visualizations, preferably before the visualization is produced and used.

State DOTs would benefit from a consistent method to record the benefits of visualization for ROW acquisition, as well as from documentation of the actual costs expended for visualization. Though the interviewed DOTs using visualization for ROW acquisition purposes recognize the value of establishing standard evaluation procedures and measures, none have been effectively implemented and shared. While one interviewed state DOT did indicate that it surveys property owners at the end of a negotiator's visit, the survey does not specifically solicit feedback on visualizations that may have been presented, nor are survey results between acquisitions completed with and without visualizations compared.

Potential criteria for evaluating visualization for ROW acquisition include:

Barrier addressed: Lack of internal resources to develop and display visualizations

Make laptop computers and media software available for mobile use.

In order for appraisers and negotiators to make best use of visualizations during ROW acquisition, they need to present the visualizations to property owners in the field. Some interviewees indicated that equipping staff in the field with laptops had been a challenge due to budget constraints. Given visualization's potential benefits in the ROW acquisition process, DOTs should modernize appraisers' and negotiators' field equipment and maintain up-to-date visualization software to the extent practicable. ROW officials in the field could find additional uses for laptops beyond showing visualizations, such as changing and printing documents on-demand, thus saving a trip to the office and potentially days in the process. These additional uses further justify the financial investment in laptops.

Barrier addressed: Concern that visualizations might not look exactly like the actual project

Keep the complexities of the parcels in mind.

Conveying a partial or complete project rendering in the ROW acquisition phase of project development can be challenging given that actual project completion is likely years away, during which substantial changes may occur. State DOTs interviewed, as well as existing literature, emphasize the importance of creating visualizations that are realistic rather than idealistic. Given the range of possibilities that visualization tools present, it is tempting to create a vision of what a finished project could look like, rather than what it will actually look like, as discussed earlier in the example where seedlings were planted onsite rather than the mature trees depicted in the visualization. Sharing visualizations that depict unfinished projects can foster public involvement by conveying that the projects are still in development, and that public feedback is welcome. In contrast, sharing a "finished" project plan may alienate stakeholders who believe that the project was finalized without their input.

Other Recommendations

Use visualization tools to improve the ROW acquisition process and, by extension, accelerate the overall project delivery process.

FHWA's "Every Day Counts" initiative is designed to identify and deploy innovation aimed at shortening project delivery, enhancing the safety of roadways, and protecting the environment. The ROW process, which includes the ROW acquisition process, is a major part of project delivery, and significant time savings can be achieved. Visualization is an innovative tool that land acquiring agencies should consider in their efforts to expedite ROW acquisition.

Going forward, FHWA should:

Conduct a test study on the degree to which visualization can expedite ROW acquisition.

To quantify advantages of advanced visualization techniques over traditional approaches, the FHWA should support a project to test the effectiveness of visualization in expediting ROW acquisition. Although this experiment would not have a "control" case, it would allow for a comparison of visualization techniques on presumably similar properties related to one transportation improvement. The project should track the dollar and labor hour costs of producing the visualizations, and should compare traditional versus advanced visualization techniques in terms of time to develop, time to settle the acquisitions, settlement and condemnation rates, and any effect on damage payment that may be necessary.

Establish a working group to collaborate and share state of the art techniques and information on visualization for all aspects of the ROW process.

A working group could collect and disseminate best practices and lessons learned to maintain accurate cost data and share visualization techniques. The group, which could be organized as an AASHTO ROW committee focus group, could organize webinars, conferences, or sessions at semi-annual meetings to update visualization and ROW experts, as well as individuals who may need visualization assistance. The working group might also provide DOTs with up-to-date information on software and hardware capabilities and requirements or work with software companies to develop software packages appropriate for ROW offices.

Conduct research on the use of visualization tools in other core ROW process areas, such as appraisal, relocation, property management or asset management, and outdoor advertising control. This research primarily focused on the acquisition aspects of the ROW process. Although other core ROW process areas were mentioned, an in-depth evaluation and analysis of the benefits and costs of visualization in the other areas was not conducted. Future research on these topics could yield useful information for practitioners seeking lessons learned in applying visualization for ROW purposes other than ROW acquisition.

Create guidelines and contract templates for visualization agreements. In coordination with visualization firms, traffic engineers and appraisers often develop the terms in ROW visualization contracts in the parlance of their respective fields, potentially predisposing a visualization product toward one particular use, and away from a more holistic application. The project team also found that the contracting language used often varies depending on a project's scope. For example, sometimes language will be added to include preparation for and testifying at a court hearing. Going into a visualization project, some companies require the following:

Other companies ask for more basic information, such as whether the DOT wants an advanced visualization versus a basic visualization, or whether additional details (e.g., people, buildings, and vehicles) will be included.

Sources Consulted and Literature Review

Hannon, Jeffrey John and Tulio Sulbaran. NCHRP Synthesis 385: Information Technology for Efficient Project Delivery. University of Southern Mississippi. October 2008. Prepared for TRB.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the U.S. Department of Commerce, the General Services Administration, the Construction Industry Institute consortium, the International Alliance for Interoperability, and the Construction Sciences Research Foundation (NCHRP) commissioned this synthesis report to study interoperability issues specifically related to state DOTs. The scope aimed to identify sharing of information throughout all phases of the project delivery process, including procedural, institutional, human, and technical constraints and mechanisms.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Task Force on Environmental Design. July 2003. Visualization in Transportation: A Guide for Transportation Agencies.

The AASHTO Task Force on Environmental Design presents the different types and uses of visualization in transportation and associated benefits and constraints. The purpose of visualization in transportation is to sufficiently convey to the public the full extent of proposed improvements without the need for specialized technical knowledge. Since visualizations are often created during the early stages of a project when final details are not certain, it should be clear that they only represent preliminary designs, which may ultimately change before the project is completed. In certain cases, where the appearance of a project may change between the time of its completion and a future date (for instance, based on the growth of vegetation planted during construction), these anticipated changes should be communicated to the public or documented in additional visualizations. Visualizations have the potential to accelerate the process of reaching a consensus on the design of a project with stakeholders, the public, and communities directly affected by the construction and ultimate operation of a project. However, AASHTO warns potential users of visualization technology for transportation projects against misrepresenting the ultimate intent of a project by augmenting images with features that will not be included in the actual improvement. Adding features purely for visual appeal can introduce bias, and may ultimately necessitate the inclusion of any superfluous visualized features into the end design.

Cambridge Systematics, Inc. December, 2006. "U.S. Domestic Scan Program: Best Practices in Right-of-Way Acquisition and Utility Relocation, Final Scan-Tour Report."

In July 2006, the NCHRP initiated a scanning tour of three state DOTs to highlight successful practices in right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation. In Florida, the scanning team noted that FDOT employs aerial photographs with the existing and proposed alignments superimposed during the ROW acquisition process to communicate to landowners the projected impact to their property. The use of these maps, which cost about $10,000 per mile, have been particularly useful in highly developed urban areas, where businesses use the ROW for parking and other commercial-based activities. Minnesota DOT employs a more sophisticated form of visualization in its ROW acquisition process, presenting landowners with a 3-D video depicting the proposed improvement and the adjacent property. At an estimated cost of less than $500 per parcel, this practice is intended to help landowners understand the impact of a project on their property while they consider the fairness of an acquisition offer.

Campbell, John et al. June 2009. "Streamlining and Integrating Right-of-Way and Utility Processes With Planning, Environmental, and Design Processes in Australia and Canada." Federal Highway Administration.

In September 2008, a group of state DOT and FHWA staff sponsored by FHWA, AASHTO, and the NCHRP conducted a scan of innovative ROW practices in Australia and Canada. The scanning team found that certain Australian states are beginning to employ visualization technology in the ROW acquisition process, posting three-dimensional animations of proposed projects online. Although the tools to create the animations were expensive, the higher level of public engagement the tools allowed sufficiently offset the tools' costs. As a result, the scanning team recommended that DOTs in the United States begin to research and promote a similar use of the technology.

Charles L. Hixon III. 2006. "Visualization for Project Development: A Synthesis of Highway Practice." NCHRP Synthesis 361. Prepared for TRB.

The authors of this NCHRP publication define visualization as "the visual representation of proposed project alternatives and improvements and their associated impacts on the existing surroundings." They suggest that traditional 2-D technical documentation like design plans often exacerbate confusion among members of the public while newer CAD-based three-dimensional media hold potential for allowing the public to understand the proposed impacts of a project. They also find that visualization can aid transportation professionals during the design process by allowing them to view potential points of interference between project elements or comprehend complex construction sequences. The authors present case studies of the Utah, California, Minnesota, New York, and Florida DOTs and the FHWA to highlight common challenges in employing visualization in transportation. These include a lack of standards and guidelines, insufficient cost/benefit data to justify the use of visualization, limited knowledge on the potential of visualization, a shortage of qualified visualization technicians within agencies, and limited opportunities for training.

FHWA. 2007. Virtual Highways—A Vision of the Future. Public Roads article.

This article appearing the May/June 2007 issue of Public Roads describes how FHWA demonstrated new visualization technologies for a roadway design process in Montana to improve project delivery time.

FHWA. 2010. Visualization's Next Frontier. Public Roads article.

This article appearing the January/February 2010 issue of Public Roads describes how visualization can be used as a tool in the engineering and design phases of project development. It includes descriptions of many 3-D, 4-D, and dynamic (animated or real-time simulation) technological tools for design visualization.

FHWA. 2005. "Acquiring Real Property for Federal and Federal-aid Programs and Projects." Publication no. FHWA-HEP-05-030.

This brochure explains the rights of owners of real property to be acquired for a federally-funded programs or projects.

Federal Lands Highway Division. Design Visualization Guide.

FHWA's Federal Lands Highway Division defines design visualization as a "simulated representation of a design concept and its contextual impacts or improvements." Federal Lands Highway Division acknowledges that design visualization is not commonly used by transportation agencies for small- or medium-scale projects due to the perception that the techniques are expensive and require a highly-specialized skill set. Their Design Visualization Guide presents visualization techniques ranging from basic to advanced that utilize computer-aided design and drafting software. They also present innovative tools for communicating designs to a general audience, including 2.5-D animations that combine an aerial photograph with a 3-D model in a single video sequence, 3-D applications, and real-time interactive models, which allow stakeholders to navigate through an animation interactively. Finally, the guide depicts seven case studies in which design visualization techniques were used to communicate the effects of a proposed improvement on a Federal Lands Highway project alignment.

Garrick, Norman W. et al. July 2005. Effective Visualization Techniques for the Public Presentation of Transportation Projects. Prepared for The New England Transportation Consortium.

Garrick, Miniutti, Westa, Luo, and Bishop identify the components of successful visualization techniques in the public involvement process of transportation projects, highlight the state of the practice in New England, and provide an overview of the techniques available to transportation professionals. The need for effective presentation methods has evolved concurrently with the availability of computer-based visualization techniques and technologies but transportation agencies need to be careful in order to ensure that visualizations are constructed accurately. In addition to involving the public more easily in the transportation planning process, visualization can be used to evaluate alternatives and identify problems early in the planning and design processes. Through their survey of visualization techniques, the authors found that, although available visualization techniques range from artist renderings to 3-D animations and simulations, New England DOTs generally use static image composites as their primary form of visualization. Furthermore, when the survey was conducted, visualization had not been fully integrated into the transportation design process at most of the DOTs that responded.

Genesee Transportation Council. An Introduction to Visualization.

The Genesee Transportation Council provides an overview of the use of visualization in transportation, including reasons for its use, available techniques, and recommendations for using visualization appropriately. Since the public may not possess the same level of understanding of engineering concepts as transportation professionals, visualization can help translate and convey the intent of proposed transportation projects. Projects of all scales can impact surrounding communities, so it is important that some form of visualization is available to the public for all projects. However, given the predictive nature of visualization, transportation professionals should qualify any visual depiction of a potential project and its source data in order to avoid misrepresentation.

Gentry, Ann H. November/December 2000. "3-D Animations: Power Tools for the ROW Professional." Right of Way Magazine. Pgs. 12-17.

Ann H. Gentry, of Precision Simulations Inc. presents various uses for visualization technology in the ROW industry. She focuses, in particular, on its use in litigation, where a three-dimensional animation or simulation can convey to a jury what maps and engineering plans cannot. A three-dimensional model allows the jury to fully understand the nature of a condemnation case and understand visually the impacts to a property that a proposed project will have or has already made. In the latter case, visualization techniques can allow an attorney to depict to the jury the appearance of a property before the improvement in question was constructed.

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. Pgs. 45-58.

Hakimi and Kockelman investigate the correlation between state ROW acquisition practices, demographic characteristics, and condemnation rates. They suggest that condemnation introduces uncertainty into estimates of cost and timeframes for ROW acquisition and, while fairly constant across years, condemnation rates represent a sufficient indication of success for ROW statutes. Their analysis found that states that allowed the acquisition of property prior to an agreement of compensation or acquisition of uneconomic remnants left over as a result of a partial acquisition experienced generally higher condemnation rates, while states that engaged in early, open, flexible, and explicit acquisition practices experienced lower condemnation rates. Their investigation of state condemnation rates also indicated that certain demographic variables like urbanization, high educational attainment, and certain political affiliations correlated with higher condemnation rates.

Hancock, Kathleen. February 2011. "NCHRP 8-55A: Developing a Logical Model for a Geo-Spatial Right-of-Way Land Management System." Prepared for the Transportation Research Board.

The objectives of this project were to (1) develop an enterprise-level logical model for a prototypical geo-spatial enabled, ROW land management system for state departments of transportation, (2) demonstrate a crosswalk between the logical model and DOT enterprise systems now in use to determine the gap between the state-of-the-art system and existing systems, and (3) deliver a presentation-ready executive summary in print and electronic formats that demonstrates the usefulness and validity of the logical model.

Hart, James M. June 29, 2009. "Integrating Modern Surveying and Mapping Technology into the Right of Way Acquisition Process." Presentation to 55th Annual IRWA International Conference, Indianapolis, IN.

James M. Hart of Towill Surveying, Mapping, and GIS Services presented to the 55th Annual Right of Way Association International Conference the benefits of modern mapping and surveying technology, including GPS, aerial photography, and Google Earth, in the ROW acquisition process. Hart expressed the effectiveness of aerial photography and Google Earth as tools for interacting with landowners, particularly highlighting the power of the latter when displayed on a GPS-enabled and wirelessly-connected laptop.

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.

Estimating Right of Way acquisition costs can be a difficult task, and one that has many variables that are difficult to predict. Agencies typically have little time or information to estimate ROW acquisition costs, which represent a significant portion of a project's cost. Heiner and Kockelman introduce models to help agencies estimate the cost of acquiring parcels. Their analysis indicates that in full property acquisitions, the value of improvements is typically more important than the value of the underlying land, while in partial acquisition, the size and shape of the remainder as well as characteristics like parking and access are significant in determining damages.

Linné, Mark R. and Michelle M. Thompson. 2010. Visual Valuation: Implementing Valuation Modeling and Geographic Information Solutions. Appraisal Institute. Chicago, IL.

The three sections of this book target readers at different levels of sophistication. Early chapters instruct the technological neophyte trying to get up to speed on the issues. Later chapters address the power user who is comfortable with practical applications of the technology. The final chapters explore the academic arena, where experts apply the most sophisticated modeling techniques in original research work.

Morgan State University, Institute for Transportation. July 2004. "Geographic Information System Implementation of State Department of Transportation Right-of-Way Programs." Prepared for the Office of Real Estate Services, FHWA,

As part of its report for the FHWA Office of Real Estate Services, the Institute for Transportation at Morgan State University surveyed the use of GIS by eight state DOT ROW programs. The Maryland DOT utilizes ESRI ArcView GIS in the ROW acquisition process to display tax assessment data visually. Certain districts of the NYSDOT also use GIS to digitize the geographic features of properties being considered for acquisition. The Minnesota and New Mexico DOTs also indicated that they used GIS for ROW acquisition.

Transportation Research Board. NCHRP Report 695: Guide for Implementing a Geospatially Enabled Enterprise-wide Information Management System for Transportation Agency Real Estate Offices. 2011.

This report presents a guide for implementing a geospatially enabled enterprise-wide information management system for ROW offices and includes a logical model to assist with this implementation. The report will be of immediate interest to staff in state highway agencies responsible for the acquisition, management, and disposition of real estate for ROW.

Transportation Research Board. NCHRP Synthesis 229: Applications of 3-D and 4-D Visualization Technology in Transportation. 1996.

This NCHRP publication describes the application of computer graphics to transportation practice. The publication is intended for transportation planners, facilities design and construction personnel, and traffic engineers. The report of describes the use of 3-D and 4-D as well as the requirements of hardware and software, costs, production time, and issues of complexity.

Transportation Research Board. NCHRP Synthesis 372: Emerging Technologies for Construction Delivery. 2007.

Chapter 5 describes the use of 3-D modeling and visualization for Automated Machine Guidance purposes.

Transportation Research Board. January-February 2007. "It's About Decisions: Advancing Transportation Project Development with Visualization Technologies." TR News.

This article provides an editorial perspective describing a leading intent of visualization technologies.

Transportation Research Board. September-October 2007. Visualization in Transportation: Empowering Innovation." TR News.

TR News presents an issue that focuses specifically on the use of visualization technology in transportation, featuring articles by several transportation professionals. Michael A. Manore, Chair of the TRB Visualization Committee, generally defines visualization as "any progressive visual means of representing static or temporal spatial and geometric information." Alan E. Pisarski, a member of the Urban Transportation Data and Information Systems Committee, illustrates the growing need for visualization in transportation, suggesting that visualization allows the public to envision complex information, and facilitates their buy-in for investing in large, expensive, and necessary transportation projects. Doug Walker, president of the visualization software and consulting firm Placeways, LLC., echoes Pisarski's message, highlighting the importance of community concerns in the project development process and the need for visualization as a common language through which experts, stakeholders, and the community can communicate. Finally, Charles L. Hixon III, the consultant for NCHRP Synthesis 361: Visualization for Project Development, notes several considerations for transportation agencies interested in employing visualization technology. He recommends that visualization be fully integrated into the planning process so that the costs are amortized. He also suggests that transportation agencies should house visualization staff in a specialized unit to provide the greatest opportunity for training, and to spread the cost of visualization over the entire agency rather than only to specific projects. USDOT. 2002. Acquiring Real Property for Federal and Federal-Aid Programs and Projects. FHWA
Publication No. FHWA-PD-95-005.

Volpe Center. July 2009. Applications of 3-D Visualization: Peer Exchange Summary Report. Prepared for FHWA's Office of Interstate and Border Planning.

On July 8–9, 2009, The FHWA's Office of Interstate and Border Planning sponsored a peer exchange to promote the use of three dimensional visualization technologies within transportation agencies. The peer exchange included presentations from the North Carolina, New York State, Minnesota, and California DOTs as well as the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and the Volusia County Metropolitan Planning Organization. The presenting agencies noted common challenges, including a difficulty determining the effectiveness of visualization tools and gaining support from upper management, difficulty organizing visualization staff within the organization, and difficulty ensuring that visualizations are used in the most appropriate and effective manner. Certain participants also emphasized the importance of developing true-to-life visualizations rather than idealized versions of a project. The key themes highlighted during the peer exchange were that visualization techniques allow transportation agencies to converse with a wide range of stakeholders, but agencies need a way to evaluate the effectiveness of visualization, develop a channel for hiring and retaining qualified visualization designers, and facilitate training and information sharing between transportation visualization specialists and practitioners from the overall industry.

Volpe Center. November 2007. Visualization Case Studies: A Summary of Three Transportation Applications of Visualization. Prepared for FHWA's Office of Interstate and Border Planning and Office of Project Development and Environmental Review.

In 2007, the USDOT Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, in coordination with the FHWA developed three case studies on the use of visualization techniques by the Arizona, Ohio, and Wyoming DOTs (ADOT, ODOT, and WYDOT, respectively). As part of an improvement project for its Interstate 10 corridor, ADOT proposed replacing an existing interchange with a design that accommodates both express and local lanes. In order to communicate the complicated proposed design to the public, ADOT created a video simulation that it showed during three public meetings. Following the display of its visualization, ADOT noted that it was effective in engaging the public and increasing support for the project. ODOT employed visualization to quantify the impact of a proposed rail grade separation following a finding of adverse effect by the Ohio State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). As part of a Visual Impact Assessment Report, ODOT created a drive-through simulation of its proposed project that enabled the Ohio SHPO to better understand the projected impacts of the project. Finally, WYDOT required the use of visualization in proposing alternatives for managing landslides along an existing alignment. It chose to enlist a consultant to create a series of photo-simulations and animations that would show the anticipated impacts of each alternative on the surrounding environment. The creation of these visualizations aided the U.S. Forest Service and the Wyoming Fish and Game Department in quantifying the impact of each alternative during the environmental review process.

Volpe Center. March 2009. "Visualization in Transportation: Five Case Studies." Prepared for FWHA's Office of Project Development and Environmental Review.

As a follow-up to its 2007 summary of three case studies in the use of visualization in transportation agencies, the USDOT Volpe Center, in coordination with the FHWA, developed five additional case studies to document the use of visualization techniques by state departments of transportation. The case studies focused on the Washington state DOT, the Idaho Transportation Department, the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans), the NCDOT, and the Massachusetts Highway Department, all of which had used visualization for public and stakeholder involvement during the transportation planning process. VTrans, in particular, had used video simulations in evaluating alternatives for redesigning an especially contentious intersection. In addition to allowing the public to understand the operations of each proposed alternative, the visualization illustrated to the public the need for VTrans to acquire property to build each option, and even showed VTrans where they could afford to reduce the acquisition of surrounding parcels.

Waltersheid, David. October 23-26, 2006. "Use of Visualization Technology for ROW Acquisition and Eminent Domain." Presentation to 5th International Visualization in Transportation Symposium and Workshop. Denver, CO.

David Waltersheid from the FHWA Office of Real Estate Services presented several examples of the use of visualization technology for the right-of-way acquisition process to the TRB 5th International Visualization in Transportation Symposium and Workshop. Examples included projects from Texas and Florida in which the acquiring agency used three-dimensional computer visualizations to communicate to landowners the projected impact of a project to their property. In one instance, a three-dimensional animation was used to communicate to a jury the anticipated effects of a project on a commercial property, which reduced the land owner's claim of just compensation from $2 million to an award of about $200,000.

1 NCHRP Synthesis 361: Visualization for Project Development is available at:

Updated: 7/22/2016
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