How many words is that picture worth?

For many of us involved in the design of the built environment, renderings and visual simulations are valuable tools that can transform a mundane, two-dimensional CAD drawing into an appealing, three-dimensional color image which communicates the look and feel of the project much more effectively to clients and stakeholders. These tools become increasingly useful as concern for project aesthetics increases, so projects like buildings and parks tend to receive more attention in the rendering and visualization department.

In the past five years, transportation design has evolved to place a greater emphasis on project aesthetics. Many transportation agencies now encourage or require the use of Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) on key projects.

CSS is an important project delivery process that encourages the design team to engage stakeholders in a way that moves projects forward. RVi is currently involved in a number of Context Sensitive Solutions projects including Oak Hill Parkway (US 290) and SH 45 SW in the Austin area. A large, complex transportation project can be difficult to communicate to stakeholders. This is where good renderings come in. Renderings become a valuable part of the decision-making process by communicating proposed roadway concepts in a way that everyone can interpret. Over the course of the project, regularly-held public workshops allow an exchange of ideas between the design team and stakeholders. During this discourse certain elements may be identified as areas of concern and warrant a visual explanation.

Recently, RVi was able to help the Oak Hill (also known as “The Y at Oak Hill”) Parkway team alleviate concerns about the height of a proposed flyover. In order to show the scale of the flyover, RVi worked with the project’s transportation engineers, Rodriguez Transportation Group, to create a photorealistic perspective rendering showing the proposed roadway structure with the iconic Oak Hill bluff in the background. Rather than showing the final aesthetic package, the purpose of this rendering was to provide a sense of scale and show how the structure of the proposed alignment fit into its actual surroundings. To ensure an accurate representation, a model of the proposed roadway design was created along with notable features in the existing surrounding environment. After detail was added to the model and incorporated with site images, drafts of the rendering were then circulated throughout the project team. Because the rendering was created in-house, RVi was able to quickly and efficiently incorporate team comments. Once the rendering was approved by the project team, the final product was used to communicate to the public in a variety of ways such as the website, newsletter, and presentation boards at public workshops.

It can be very difficult for individuals unfamiliar with transportation engineering to support something they cannot see. Compelling visualizations of a roadway project are a powerful way to build public support and to address concerns with answers grounded in reality. Accurate perspective renderings are a valuable tool that can be widely distributed to build support for a project among a diverse audience. As clients, stakeholders, and the general public become more aware of the positive value of CSS as a process, we foresee a greater role for visualization in transportation design.