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Centro de Investigación del Transporte - Noticias


The relationship of the landscape with the motorways

UPM researchers are developing a method for assessing the character and scenic quality of the landscape and its relationship to motorways.
Source: Web UPM.
The landscape, as an integral element of the relationship between the human being and his habitat, is an important factor of well-being. It can improve the quality of life by generating positive feelings, which are always part of the needs of any society. A team of researchers from the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM), members of its Transport Research Center (Transyt), has developed a methodological tool that facilitates the incorporation of the landscape thus understood in the planning, design and operation of highways.
The relationship of roads with the landscape is of particular importance, since they alter the environmental resources of the territory, but they also constitute a means through which the individual comes into contact with the natural space. The objective of the research was based on this idea: to design a methodology to evaluate the character and scenic quality of the landscape seen from the highways and to provide measures to evaluate whether the highway transmits the character of the landscape of which it is part.
To do the work, the researchers combined two scales. On the one hand, they used digital cartography and geographic information systems. With this, they evaluated the character of the landscape on the scale of the environmental impact assessment. On the other hand, they used photographs to assess their scenic quality based on the perception of highway users. This second method corresponds to the scale of the road layout and construction project.
The researchers argue that the use of complementary sources of information facilitates the understanding and interpretation of the landscape, insofar as it simplifies its complexity and ensures that the assessment is as objective as possible. The methodological proposal is concrete, replicable and transparent, in the opinion of its authors, who applied it as a case study to a motorway in the Community of Madrid, the AP-6, in the section between Collado Villalba and the Guadarrama tunnel.
The character of the landscape crossing the road was assessed by cartography in terms of coherence, naturalness, complexity, visual scale, presence of historical elements, disturbances and elements of an ephemeral nature. It was also assessed, according to the method already explained, the quality of the landscape perceived by the driver. The study, in addition to concluding that landscapes are seen from poor to of outstanding quality, has served to locate possibilities for improvement on the sides of the road through landscape integration measures.
The researchers explain that the results of their work can help highway planners, designers and operators in various ways. For example, when evaluating within the visual impact studies the differences between the two states of the landscape (with and without a new project) or justifying actions in the field of landscape integration before the Administration. Also for the improvement of landscape actions considering the relationship between cost and efficiency, the evaluation in concession tenders or the management of project work and maintenance of integration measures.
MARTIN, BETHLEHEM; ORTEGA, EMILIO; OTERO, ISABEL; MAPLE, ROSE M. "Landscape character assessment with GIS using map-based indicators and photographs in the relationship between landscape and roads". Journal of Environmental Management, 180 324-334; 10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.05.044 SEP 15 2016

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