Visual Impact Assessment (VIA) Guidelines

In 2015, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and United States Department of Transportation (US-DOT) produced a guidance document titled "Guidelines for the Visual Impact Assessment of Highway Projects." In 2019, CDOT developed its own guidelines to build on these FHWA Guidelines and customize them to Colorado landscapes.

CDOT’s VIA Guidelines are rooted in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that creates a process to inform transportation decision-making for projects. These Guidelines provide NEPA practitioners with contemporary guidance for preparing visual resource assessments through an “easy to follow” step-by-step process.

The VIA process captures key visual issues, documents adverse and beneficial impacts, and provides a framework for developing effective mitigation measures for projects along transportation corridors, with the goal of achieving visual compatibility with landscape character, viewers (travelers and neighbors), and visual quality.  These Guidelines describe CDOT’s comprehensive process for assessing visual impacts and have been incorporated into Chapter 9 of CDOT’s NEPA Manual. The templates included below should be used to document VIA scoping, and (if required) preparation of a VIA Memorandum or Standard VIA.

The following documents are available for your use. Please contact Pamela Cornelisse @ [email protected] to request these documents:

2020 VIA Guidelines
Visual Resources Decision Tree
VIA Scoping Questionnaire (2020)
VIA Memo Template (2019)
VIA Standard Template (2019)
VIA Guidelines Briefing Paper

For more information on visual impact assessment, check out the following articles on American Society of Landscape Architect's blog The Field:
         Viewshed Analysis for Visual Impact Assessment (VIA), by Liia Koiv-Haus (2023)
         A New Resource on the Visual Assessment of Landscapes, by James Palmer (2019)