Linear infrastructure routing experts struggle with providing rationale for final route selections that are defensible, transparent, open to two-way stakeholder communication, and ultimately scientifically rigorous and repeatable. Likewise, proponents are wise to adopt a front-end, risk-based approach to proactively identify, mitigate or possibly avoid routing decisions that may result in stakeholder opposition and costly permitting and/or approval delays.

This paper discusses an approach using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and a highly structured multi-criteria spatial analysis (MCA) to identify potentially optimal corridors and routes based on best available environmental, social, economic and technical spatial datasets. This approach can be used by multidisciplinary project teams to systematically capture, explore and record routing protocols and assumptions, and then extrapolate these considerations through GIS modelling into simulated corridor and route options which can then be quantitatively analyzed, compared, documented and communicated.

Early identification and mitigation of project routing risks may help reduce or avoid costly project delays at later stages. Stakeholder communication and consultation can be incorporated at each stage in order to inform routes and explore trade-offs, as well as communicate routing rationale in an open, constructive and meaningful way.

The resulting benefits of this approach include a robust and comprehensive rationale, providing proponents with a clear and compelling “story” in support of public and stakeholder consultation as well as the regulatory approval process.

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