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VISUALIZATION FOR PROJECT DEVELOPMENT SUMMARY Visualization is the visual representation of proposed project alternatives and improvements and their associated impacts on the existing surroundings. The technology uses a vast array of tools to assist transportation agencies in the decision-making process for planning and design. Traditionally, visualization has been used to convey the final design to decision makers, stakeholders, and the public. Today, some transportation agencies are finding new ways to integrate visualization into the project development process. This synthesis focuses on the best practices and experiences to date of leading transporta- tion agencies that are developing and incorporating visualization into the "preconstruction" component of the project development process. Information was acquired through interviews with various transportation agencies, uni- versities, and consultants across the United States. A survey questionnaire was sent to the agencies in advance of the interview to assist in preparation for the interview. Additional information was acquired by means of the Internet and by a review of previous AASHTO and TRB documentation concerning the uses of visualization. For more than 20 years, computer graphic technologies have advanced the production and accuracy of the project development process. The greatest impact of these technologies has been with computer-aided drafting and design (CADD). Initially considered a two-dimensional (2-D) drafting tool, CADD has matured over the years to become a viable three-dimensional (3-D) design tool. The use of 3-D CADD technology has provided transportation agencies with the capability to use new visual tools to help with planning and design. These visual tools are becoming more widely used within the planning, design, construction, stakeholder approval, and public involvement processes. The rapid progression of these visual tools has exceeded the organizational capacity of many transportation agencies. This rapid progression is the result of in large part the decreasing costs of computer hardware and software and the increasing processing capacity of desktop computer systems. Agencies struggle with basic decision-making questions: When should visualization technologies be used? How should they be used? What visual technologies should be used? The current state of visualization within the transportation community is one of eagerness to use the technology, but minimal organization for its implementation. Transportation agen- cies throughout the United States are looking for guidelines and best practices for its use. A majority of the current use of visualization occurs at the grass-roots level within trans- portation agencies. Most of this use is driven either by a specific project or by a project man- ager. The result is that most transportation agencies are reactive to visualization versus being proactive in its development. People with minimal to no experience with visualization are determining its use or nonuse for their project(s). Because the use of this technology is being driven by people with a lack of experience, clear standards or guidelines need to be devel- oped or adhered to by transportation agencies. Because there are no accepted guidelines,

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2 research and development for visual tools is limited to job-related experience and trial and error. With the exception of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Metro District, and the New York State Department of Transportation, most of the agencies interviewed for this synthesis have informal groups or individuals who produce visuals. None of these groups has any structured organization or recognition by their respective transportation agencies. Basic guidelines such as job descriptions, application development processes, or best practices are not being followed by these groups or are being informally written and executed. Despite the lack of focus and direction, the use of visual tools by transportation agencies is increasing. This increase is primarily the result of outside forces, such as the need for project acceptance from the public for controversial design issues. Almost every large-scale project today uses some form of visualization capability. Visualization is becoming "expected," espe- cially for high-profile projects requiring extensive public involvement. Because of the extent of hardware and software applications currently available, it would be extremely difficult to determine which product(s) should be used for best practices or for costbenefit analyses. However, developing sound standards and guidelines for the use of these products is attainable. The most effective way for visual tools to be implemented and standardized is to institute them within the planning and design process as a logical extension of CADD. Three-dimensional CADD tools are already in place; however, transportation agen- cies have been reluctant to use them because of the expense of training and additional staff- hours required for 3-D production. To meet the increasing demand for visualization, the transportation agencies interviewed for this synthesis would all like to see guidelines, best practices, and costbenefit analyses compiled for the use of visualization. The goal would be to have transportation agencies for- mally recognize visualization as a core service within the project development process.