A computer-assisted technique for planning minimum impact transmission right of way routes

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


A computer-assisted system was developed as an aid in the process of planning and evaluating the impact of electric transmission rights of way. The system was designed to facilitate the objective analysis of proposed construction activities and to provide insights into the location of routes which tend to minimize the overall adverse impacts incurred by society.

The system includes a series of processes for acquiring regional information on economic, social and environmental site characteristics in a computer readable form. Procedures for the creation and maintenance of a computerized data base of this resource information were developed.

Two indices were formulated to relate the probable multidimensional impact of right of way construction to the physical characteristics of the associated site. The index of economic impact relates probable, discounted construction and maintenance costs to the topographic characteristics of any site. This basic cost may be incremented to make sites with critical environmental characteristics appear less attractive for right of way installation. The index of overall impact uses the subjective judgment of the decision maker and technical experts to construct a single weighted measure of the probable multidimensional impacts which would result over time from construction activities on critical sites.

Computer programs were developed to evaluate the potential impact of any proposed right of way in tabular and cartographic form. A minimum flow search algorithm was programmed to facilitate the design of alternate routes which minimize total potential impacts.

A data base of 17 basic land characteristics was compiled for a 5,000 square mile study area in northern Virginia. The evaluative and design capabilities of the system were demonstrated in detail on a hypothetical right of way in an 80,000-acre subarea. The same techniques were then applied to the evaluation of a series of three industry-proposed rights of way totaling over 100 miles in length.