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20 FIGURE 25 Devil's Slide Project location graphic, San Mateo County. (Courtesy : Caltrans.) and maintenance building mitigation. Initially created for then generated with visual tools to convey the modified understanding and approvals, the visuals (renderings incor- designs. The project was finally approved and is currently porated into photographs) became part of the design under construction. process. Large retaining walls were required for the tunnel entrances and were a serious concern of the California CASE STUDY 3: MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT Coastal Commission. OF TRANSPORTATION Once the initial visuals were created, the commission Contact: rejected the design primarily for aesthetic reasons and con- Principal Landscape Architect cerns over the portals for the tunnels. Working with the visu- Minnesota DOT alization technicians and engineers, the Coastal Commission Office of Technical Support had the design revised to match the surroundings and to pro- Mail Stop 686, 395 John Ireland Boulevard vide safer conditions from mud slides. Several versions were St. Paul, MN 55155-1899

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21 FIGURE 26 Photo-simulation presentation board Devil's Slide Project, San Mateo County. (Courtesy : Caltrans.) Organization technology as a central office function. However, the need for visualization continued as a vital tool on a large number Photo-simulation and computer visualization technology has of controversial metro area projects. Recognizing the benefit been an evolving process at Mn/DOT since the mid-1980s. of having this service within the organization, Mn/DOT's During that time, hand-rendered photo-simulation and 3-D Metro District absorbed part of the old visualization staff and physical models were created by staff within the Landscape aligned it with experienced MicroStation modeling staff, Architecture Unit. In the early 1990s, the graphic artist's forming a strong visualization team with expertise in 2-D, skills transitioned to the computer using Adobe PhotoShop 3-D, and 4-D technology (12). This three-person Mn/DOT 2.0. This 2-D paint-and-composite process, although quick team currently uses an eight-processor rendering farm for and effective, encountered limitations when needing to sim- their animation production. Two other staff members with ulate detailed structures (walls, ramps, bridges, and so forth) good visualization expertise are located in the Central Office and alignments. As a result of demonstrating the importance Landscape Architecture Unit. Many within these Mn/DOT of elevating Mn/DOT's visualization process to 3-D and units believe that more investment of time and resources up- engineering accurate levels, a Visualization Unit was estab- front in project development through visualization will save lished in the mid-1990s with a one-time start-up budget of time and money overall, while reducing rework cycles. As $250,000. This new centralized unit developed standards, one individual stated, "Better design takes time, but poor guidelines, and job responsibilities while producing 3-D design usually takes longer." projects. The Visualization Unit provided a statewide service until 2003, when the group was disbanded because of Why the Need for Visualization? restructuring during department cutbacks. This cost-cutting measure was partly enacted because there was not a clear Project managers are the primary users of visualization tech- costbenefit analysis in place for the use of visualization nology. Their primary needs are for public involvement

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22 issues (an estimated 70% of all visualization work) and the and seminars is not possible. There is concern that with con- EIS portion of project development. Newer project managers tinued budget constraints the visual groups will not be able tend to embrace the technology, whereas senior-level project to advance the visualization process. managers often resist it. Most project managers do not have a good perception of the level of effort and time needed to produce visualizations. Staffing Another result of using visuals for the public involvement Although all eight Mn/DOT districts have the ability to process is the discovery of necessary design revisions and the implement visualization, only a few actually use the tech- avoidance of design flaws. Adjustments are presented to the nology. The Metro District is the leader. There has also been project manager, who addresses them on a case-by-case basis. some visual job sharing between the districts. Staffing is small, with one to three members at each district. Because of the former centralized group, Mn/DOT has visual techni- Implementation Plan cians who are versed in advanced 3-D tools such as computer modeling and animation. Mn/DOT has filled this technology The typical workflow has visuals requested by a project man- gap by promoting CADD technicians who have art back- ager, who consults with the district's visualization supervi- grounds and are self-motivated to learning applications on sor. The Visualization Unit will advise the project manager their own. The group has determined that although all tech- on which visual tools should be used, how they will be pre- nicians have a passion for technology, the individuals with sented, and the schedule needed to complete them. A typical art backgrounds make a noticeable difference with the out- production schedule lasts approximately 4 weeks. CADD comes. As one individual stated, "You cannot force someone data and photography are the basis for all visuals. The district to become an artist; at least not a good artist." project managers or staff also commonly request smaller visualization projects or tasks from the Central Office Land- The aptitude level of the technician plays an important scape Architecture Unit. role in the selection of the visual tool and output. It has been observed in some cases that someone with less aptitude, expertise, and artistic ability does a less than compelling job. Research and Development There is no formal research and development process at Visualization Benefits Mn/DOT. However, it does conference with other DOTs such as the NYSDOT for visualization development. There The most successful uses of visualization continue to be is also some limited support from hardware and software with photo-simulation technology. Mn/DOT believes that vendors. Many visualization technicians come from univer- this trend will continue for the next few years. Visualiza- sities and art schools that teach various 3-D applications. tion continues to be a communication tool instead of a These individuals are helping to push the advancement of design tool. 3-D CADD is not a consideration at this time. visualization. In the metro district, 90% of all visualization The objective for now is to refine the tools already in place by adding more realism into the digital images created work is produced in-house by the three-person unit. (e.g., inserting 3-D traffic and people into the models). The goal of the Metro office and other participating districts is Internal Approval Process for Visualization to have visualization be incorporated into the design process. The visualization technician needs to become part There is no formal visualization budget at Mn/DOT. Budgets of the design group assigned to a project early and contin- are generated straight from projects that the groups are uously. There is no current directive to use 3-D design at involved with. It is difficult to analyze visual expenses Mn/DOT. because they are incorporated into the overall project budget and are not tracked separately. When projects are assigned, Visualization is being used on larger projects for public the only budgetary concerns are the schedule and the staff- involvement and on smaller projects for existing and pro- hours needed to accomplish the task. The approval process is posed analysis. through the project manager. Larger projects tend to support more visualization objectives. The St. Croix River Crossing Project is one of the largest projects currently taking place in Minnesota. This For the past several years, the Minnesota state budget has $350 million project is attempting to relieve traffic con- been limited for investments in computer technology. Bud- gestion and safety problems by providing a new river get limitations were one of the reasons for dissolving the cen- crossing. To achieve this goal, there is a large stakeholder tralized group (the intent was to be a cost-saving measure). group (28 different agencies) that needs to review and With limited budgets there has been minimal training. Travel approve the proposed design. The project involves very restrictions are in place, so attending out-of-state conferences sensitive natural and cultural resource concerns. Early in

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23 the design process it became apparent that the stakehold- ers could not picture the visual impacts that the proposed bridge would have. To address this issue, an additional person was hired by Mn/DOT to help create various ren- derings, photo-simulations, and computer animation to represent the five proposed alternatives (see Figures 27 and 28). The initial purpose of the visuals was to garner support for the project. However, as the production progressed, visualization was used for design purposes, specifically to help assess the bluff impacts on the Minnesota side of the project. The visuals helped to eliminate some of the alter- natives early in the process. The project manager believed FIGURE 27 Project location map for a proposed alternative for that the visuals were beneficial to the project, because the St. Croix crossing. (Courtesy : Mn/DOT.) otherwise "people look at plan sheets and they cannot FIGURE 28 Photo-simulation presentation board for proposed alternative for the St. Croix River crossing. (Courtesy : Mn/DOT).