California Department of Transportation

Directions For Using Visual Impact Assessment (VIA) Annotated Outlines

The VIA Annotated Outlines are designed to be instructional and self-guiding; however users will benefit from reading these directions.  Using VIA Annotated Outlines will help to ensure that Caltrans complies with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements for determining potential visual impacts on transportation projects.  Their use will also assist Caltrans, its partners and stakeholders to ensure that visual analyses are thorough, concise, objective, defensible, and consistent with statewide practices.  The annotated outlines are based on the FHWA Visual Impact Assessment for Highway Projects guidance and methodology, and are designed to support and clearly communicate the key findings of the visual analysis.

It’s recommended that Caltrans' Landscape Architects and external partners review Caltrans VIA Training Modules prior to preparing any VIA.

Caltrans VIA Training Modules are available on the Landscape Architecture Program home page at:

Three VIA Annotated Outlines have been developed to accommodate different levels of project complexity, controversy, and potential impacts:  Minor, Moderate, and Advanced/Complex.  Modifications to the outlines may be made if changes are needed to address unique project characteristics.  Modifications include making non-standard edits or providing additional information, but omitting steps in the FHWA methodology is not allowed.  It’s anticipated that a high level of customization of the Advanced/Complex outline could be necessary to accommodate these types of projects.

Each annotated outline contains three types of text:  black text, blue text, and red text.  Black text is boilerplate and should be used in the document, but may be edited if necessary for the project.  Blue text consists of instructions, guidance, or sample text that should be replaced with project specific information, or deleted from the final document as appropriate.  Red text indicates the option to select the correct word or phrase for completing a sentence.

VIA Annotated Outlines

Select the appropriate VIA Annotated Outline below that corresponds to your VIA Questionnaire score.

SCORE 15-19

Use the Minor VIA Annotated Outline.

SCORE 20-24

Use the Moderate VIA Annotated Outline.

SCORE 25-30

Use the Advanced/Complex VIA Annotated Outline.