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Section 2: Landscape and Aesthetics Design of the Transportation Infrastructure

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Subsections in this section deal with:

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Policy and Authorities

There is a body of regulation and policy that provides the foundation for landscape and aesthetics design activities. These include:

Section 7 of this chapter discusses policy and authorities further and gives references or links to specific regulations, laws, and programs.

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Project Development Process

The development of a contemporary transportation project is a complex interdisciplinary process. TxDOT divides the project development process into six broad groups of activities:

The involvement of landscape architects and other design professionals may occur at any point in the process. However, they are usually most heavily involved in preliminary design, environmental design, and plan specification and estimate (PS&E) development. Specific activities and tasks in these areas are outlined in Chapter 3 of this manual.

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Role of Landscape and Aesthetics in Transportation Design

The Environmental Protection Agency ( (EPA) and the Federal Highway Administration, ( (FHWA) have recognized the visual, scenic, and aesthetic qualities of a landscape as an environmental component that must be taken into account. Several sections of the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR) and the U.S. Code (Title 23, Sections 109) specifically state that the aesthetic or scenic qualities of a place may be taken into account and preserved or enhanced.

In addition to the regulatory requirement to consider the aesthetic quality, the general public is increasingly demanding aesthetic enhancements to existing and proposed transportation facilities. The greatest pressure for aesthetic enhancements tends to be in the major urban centers of the state and in rural areas having high scenic quality (such as the Davis Mountains).

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Aesthetics and Aesthetic Quality

Aesthetics is most often associated with a sense of beauty. By definition it is a “particular theory or conception of beauty or art; a pleasing appearance or effect.” With respect to the practice of transportation design, aesthetics may be defined as dealing with the visual integration of highways and other transportation modes into the fabric of a landscape in a way that blends with or complements that setting. This is important since the view to and from highways and other transportation facilities contributes to the perception of communities and the quality of a place.

However, the aesthetic properties of a transportation facility have purpose beyond simply creating a pleasant view. Aesthetics is intertwined with the function of the facility. An aesthetically pleasing highway or other transport mode is one that provides its users with a clear picture of what is going on around them and what is expected of them. This is accomplished by using techniques and materials to provide better definition of the elements of the facility, to visually highlight important information, and to reduce the stress on users that results from operating a vehicle in a complex environment.

The first consideration of landscape and aesthetics master planning and design is to improve the safety and function of the transportation network. This means that aesthetics planning is a process that occurs at every stage of design, construction, and maintenance. In a majority of cases meeting basic safety, operational, and design goals will be sufficient to meet most landscape and aesthetics goals. However, in special cases meeting aesthetics goals may require going beyond these basic needs, without compromising the safety of the facility.

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