A route survey is a data collection operation to gather information about the proposed route of a roadway, utility pipe, or railway. Surveyors are tasked with finding the most cost effective route to follow. An engineer will use the data the survey teams collect to plan out the route in detail and create specifications for work crews to follow. Teams may spend days or weeks in the field, depending on the nature of the project. It is necessary to have a surveying degree or similar qualification to participate in a route survey, and sometimes internship positions are available for surveying students who want to acquire practical skills.
Governments or companies will order a route survey as they prepare to extend services across a new area. The surveyors will meet with representatives to discuss plans, such as the number of lanes in a roadway or the type of utilities being laid across a region. This information can be important for planning, as surveyors need to think about the parameters of the project. The surveyors use a variety of equipment on the route survey to profile the landscape, taking special note of geologic formations, property lines, and other features that may become an issue.
Members of the route survey team can make recommendations about the route and grading to help engineers prepare plans. As they work, they may think about issues like whether it would be better to go through or around various aspects of the landscape; a deep valley may be cheaply traversed with a bridge, while a large mountain might be too big to tunnel through, necessitating a diversion of the route around it. Grading can be an important topic for trains, as very steep grades can be extremely hard on engines.
Surveyors want to find the most direct and efficient route. Expenses can rack up very quickly when laying out roads, railways, and utility lines, especially in the face of obstacles like hills, large rivers, and so forth. They also need to consider geologic hazards like faults, which could present a threat to the integrity of the finished project. Many rely on software programs to help them organize their data, as large volumes of material pour in over the course of a route survey.
During the survey, personnel may leave markers along the way. Members of the public should be aware that moving or tampering with survey markers can carry serious penalties, including fines and jail time. Communities with concerns about a proposed route can usually file objections at various stages of the planning process.