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Environmental Review Toolkit

How to Implement PEL

Planning and Environment Linkages logo
Here is a set of tools designed to help agencies identify areas where they can strengthen planning and environment linkages (PEL).
These tools are also intended to help agencies identify available assistance and potential FHWA activities that could be undertaken to provide that assistance.
Tools are grouped into four categories. Click the plus sign (plus sign icon) to open and view a particular category’s full content.
Institutional Changes
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Sample Actions
Practical Applications

Champions and working groups

  • Internal leadership workshops
  • Inter-agency leadership workshops
  • Specific staffers or champions designated in key agency offices to oversee implementation of linkage activities
  • Internal or inter-agency working groups convened

Arizona Wildlife Linkages — case study


Training and exchanges

  • Internal training or peer exchanges about linking planning and project development or transportation and land and resource planning
  • Inter-agency training or peer exchanges about linking transportation, land use, and resource planning

Document new procedural or analysis guidance

Develop procedures and guidance for environment linkages during planning, including analysis methods, procedures for involving key stakeholders, and ’handing off’ planning products to project development staff, documented in agency publications such as:

  • Corridor, metropolitan, or sub-area plan guidebooks

Organizational structuring

  • Staff allocations to support linkages
  • Interdisciplinary teams
  • Crossover positions between one or more disciplines within the agency

Executive-level commitment

Communication from executive management to staff level regarding agency’s commitment to strengthening planning and environment linkages which might include:

  • Internal memoranda
  • Management directives
  • Policy statements
  • Dedicated resources for integration (staff, funding, time, etc.)

Performance measures

  • Detailed indicators of progress in strengthening planning and environment linkages
  • Staff performance criteria that reflect strong planning and environment linkages (e.g., MPO coordination and support responsibilities for state DOT’s MPO liaison and/or environment staff)
Planning and Environmental Process Enhancements
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Sample Actions
Practical Applications

Develop long-range transportation plans in consultation with resource and regulatory agencies

Compare transportation plans to natural and cultural resource inventories, maps or plans. Consult with Federal, State, Tribal and local agencies as appropriate. (23 CFR 450)


Consider mitigation opportunities

Explore potential environmental mitigation opportunities and potential areas to carry out those activities in consultation with Federal, State, and Tribal land management, wildlife, and regulatory agencies. (23 CFR 450)


Corridor planning, sub area planning, and tiering

  • Conduct a multimodal, systems-level corridor or subarea planning study as part of the statewide transportation planning process, which may result in development of a proposed project purpose and need, preliminary screening of alternatives, and preliminary identification of environmental impacts and mitigation opportunities (23 CFR 450)
  • Integration may be accomplished through tiering (as described in 40 CFR 1502.20), incorporating the subarea or corridor planning study into the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Environmental Assessment, or other means that the NEPA lead agencies deem appropriate. (23 CFR 450)

Carry planning decisions through in project development (linking planning and NEPA)

Planning processes, including long-range, corridor, and sub-area studies, that feature components that use NEPA principles and methods, including:

  • NEPA tiering
  • Purpose and need statements
  • Scoping and alternatives identification
  • Analysis or baselining of environmental conditions or impacts
  • Evaluation and/or elimination of alternatives
  • Indirect and cumulative impacts assessment
  • Preparatory analyses for permitting

Consider Context Sensitive Solutions

Incorporate principles, approaches, guidelines, standards, or flexibility to be used in designing transportation facilities, such as context-sensitive design

Coordination and Communication
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Sample Actions
Practical Applications

Communicate with stakeholders

Develop contact and relationships with:

  • Environmental resource and regulatory agencies
  • Regional planning agencies
  • Tribal governments
  • Interest groups
  • The greater community

Establish standing inter- and intra-agency coordination groups

Develop contact and relationships with: Inter- and intra-agency working groups, task forces, or committees that meet on an ongoing basis to focus on coordinating information exchange and collaborative decision-making


Develop Memoranda of Understanding/ Agreement

MOAs/MOUs may stipulate arrangements regarding:

  • Operating procedures
  • Funding
  • Programmatic approaches
  • Dispute resolution procedures
  • Other aspects of planning, project development, and reviews

AASHTO Programmatic Agreement Toolkit

Interagency Agreements (MOAs, MOUs, and Programmatic Agreements) in the State Environmental Streamlining and Stewardship Practices Database


Fund staff positions at partner agencies

Provide inter-agency funding for transportation positions in resource and regulatory agencies. The positions can address environmental considerations in planning as well as environmental review, consultation, and permitting activities.

Data and Analysis Tools
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Sample Actions
Practical Applications

Document existing geographic data

Example categories of data:

  • Ecological resources
  • Cultural assets
  • Land use and development
  • Demographics
  • Transportation

Develop protocols and tools for sharing data and analysis among and within agencies

  • Develop information systems that support access by multiple agencies and departments within agencies, including updating of data
  • Establish inter-agency data sharing agreements
  • Develop a software tool that allows for information to be shared among and within agencies during the transport decision process, including web access and ability to record comments and decisions at multiple points

Improve access to and use of geographic resource data by transportation staff

  • Provide planning and environmental staff with access to data for use in planning and project development functions, and employ the data to conduct analysis and inform decision-making
  • Develop training on using and analyzing data in transportation planning and project development.

Collect and maintain data regularly

Establish a regular schedule and maintenance program for various geographic and other important data used in transportation planning and project development.

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