About the research
Visualization is a relatively recent tool available to engineers for enhancing transportation project design through improved communication, decision making, and stakeholder feedback. Current visualization techniques include image composites, video composites, 2D drawings, drive-through or fly-through animations, 3D rendering models, virtual reality, and 4D CAD. These methods are used mainly to communicate within the design and construction team and between the team and external stakeholders. Use of visualization improves understanding of design intent and project concepts and facilitates effective decision making. However, visualization tools are typically used for presentation only in large-scale urban projects.
Visualization is not widely accepted due to a lack of demonstrated engineering benefits for typical agency projects, such as small- and medium-sized projects, rural projects, and projects where external stakeholder communication is not a major issue. Furthermore, there is a perceived high cost of investment of both financial and human capital in adopting visualization tools. The most advanced visualization technique of virtual reality has only been used in academic research settings, and 4D CAD has been used on a very limited basis for highly complicated specialty projects. However, there are a number of less intensive visualization methods available which may provide some benefit to many agency projects. In this paper, we present the results of a feasibility study examining the use of visualization and simulation applications for improving highway planning, design, construction, and safety and mobility.