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22 Arizona and Ontario suggested in their responses that VM is effective because the language of functions enables the VE studies are often undertaken to build consensus among multidisciplinary team to communicate more effectively. stakeholders. Arizona noted the use of VE with external stakeholders, whereas Ontario has had experience building Transportation projects are subject to extensive public consensus between internal department organizations. Wash- scrutiny during the course of their development. NEPA and ington State and Ontario also advised that VE is used to other similar laws require STAs to fully engage the public and resolve or validate scope issues. stakeholders in the project. In many instances, the traditional approach to transportation planning is used. This approach In 1981, NCHRP Synthesis of Highway Practice 78 (1) requires that the public and stakeholders review plans and reported that most of the initial VE programs at the STAs concepts and share their reactions with STA staff. were focused on standard drawings and specifications. In 2004, it would appear that many agencies have shifted to In the past few years, a greater emphasis has been placed focus more on specific construction projects. More than 70% on involving the public and stakeholders earlier in the proj- of the responding transportation agencies indicated that they ect development cycle. VE can be used to enhance commu- rarely or never apply VE to technical standards, specifica- nications between the STA, the public, and stakeholders. In tions, and drawings. As indicated in Figures 7 and 8, how- addition, VE tools can be used to define project team actions ever, the broadest influence on a project occurs when the VE to ensure compliance with federal requirements (38). team focuses on its design standards. The application of VE very early in project development As an example, two recent VE studies for the Ontario also streamlines the development of alternatives and selec- MTO (36,37) focused on the development of new typical tion of the right project, instead of trying to optimize the cross-section standards. These studies tackled the cross- design later on. Using VE at an initial stage permits the proj- section topic in two separate components--lane and shoulder ect team to quickly define the project concept. In addition, widths and the roadside--using very large multidisciplinary the team can take advantage of having the stakeholders specialist teams. In both cases, the VE teams brought together actively involved from the start to promote early buy in, a unique blend of traditional practitioner (road design, drain- which will reduce the overall time to reach an optimal solu- age, construction, traffic, and environment) and academic tion (39). expertise, including road safety and human factors special- ists. The study of the design standards had far-reaching con- VM can also be used directly with agencies to improve sequences and prompted an update of geometric and roadside interdepartmental communications or to bridge institutional design requirements to embrace new cost-effective design borders. For example, a new concept standard for commer- approaches. MTO will realize the benefits of these updated cial vehicle inspection facilities was recently being consid- design standards, when implemented, on many projects. ered to replace 25-year-old designs (40). The VE team used VE and business process modeling to define the operational expectations for the new sites, working directly with the ENGAGING STAKEHOLDERS stakeholders in the workshop. Although the key stakeholders had no real previous experience working together, they had VE, from its earliest applications in transportation, has been well-defined expectations. As Holmes noted (41), "the staff used by transportation agencies to control cost. After all, VE involved in the study seldom have opportunities to collabo- was originally introduced to government agencies as a man- rate. The VE process [resulted in] exceedingly functional and agement tool for project and program expenditures. Although innovative concepts." cost continues to be the primary motivation for its use (this includes the federal mandate), several transportation agen- The opportunity to include knowledgeable and engaged cies have started to pursue the broader benefits of VE. VE is participants on a VE team should be encouraged. Recalling being used to engage stakeholders to: his early experiences with the Caltrans VE program, Spartz (18) observed that: Establish project scope, Fast track project development, A unique aspect of the team makeup was the participation of one Improve interagency communications, or more outsiders, which could include a city or county engineer, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, an individual from the U.S. Bridge institutional borders, Forest Service, the mayor of a city, or a private party who has an Define a better balance between the needs of road users active interest in the project. and those of the community or the environment, and Reach consensus on difficult issues. In some cases, it might be better to take the workshop results to the stakeholders. A Florida DOT (FDOT) VE study VM is often referred to as a powerful decision-making (42) recently included the use of virtual reality software to process. This is because the suite of activities that make up the present and demonstrate the VE alternative. What made this Job Plan guides the team to supportable decisions. However, so interesting was that the VE team developed an interactive