When determining a route for an electric transmission line, better, more efficient processes are always a primary focus. The alignment of a route is often just as important as how the project is designed or built. Any oversight or flaw in the routing study could result in unexpected costs and a delayed schedule.

Route selection must be a comprehensive, methodical process but project demands often require route selection to be done on a compressed schedule. Route selection entails an assessment of constructability, environmental sensitivity, land use, easement access and other pertinent factors, many of which may impact the cost of a project. The entire routing process pulls together an abundance of information and datasets to identify the preferred route for a project.

Project teams can standardize and expedite the process by automating key aspects of the route analysis. This accelerates the identification, analysis and documentation of preliminary routes while also minimizing errors.

Automation can be introduced at the start of the routing process with the base data collection, utilizing programs that pull hundreds of datasets from federal, state and local agencies; private companies; nongovernmental organizations and other data aggregators to gather an in-depth perspective.

Digital tools can then help the routing specialist evaluate constraints within the study area. Using the collected data and a predefined set of factors and weights, a suitability map can be generated that graphically depicts constraint ranges within the study area. This suitability map can then be used to identify a set of corridors using the least cost path methodology.

This sets up the project team to then manually develop a proposed route network while using the suitability corridors as a high-level guide. With the right system in place, teams can leverage automation to quickly quantify the potential impacts for the set of identified preliminary routes based on various evaluation factors, such as length, heavy angles, wetlands or flood plains crossed, impact to navigable airspace or many others. This automated route evaluation compares top-ranking routes and selects a recommended route. The selection of a recommended route must rely on both the quantified data as well as factors that cannot be easily quantified — this is where the experience of the routing specialist is critical.

Automated systems can then take the collected data and generate a draft a custom routing report, saving hours of work. These reports document the data collected, study area characteristics, methodologies, route identification and analysis, recommended route rationale and impacts, mitigation recommendations, and a list of potential permits.

With preliminary routes in hand, experienced project teams can spend more time digging into the complexities of assessing route options. This often unlocks more resources for minimizing public or environmental challenges associated with projects, ultimately setting clients up for successful permitting processes.


An effective routing process will allow project teams to focus on key public and environmental challenges.

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Dusty Werth is a senior environmental scientist providing transmission line routing studies and Federal Aviation Administration obstruction evaluation studies. He has more than a decade of experience in the environmental industry and has successfully routed a variety of projects across the U.S.