|Environmental Review Toolkit|
|NEPA and Project
|Section 4(f)||Water, Wetlands,
|Accelerating Project Delivery|
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Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL): Streamlining Transportation Decisionmaking
Since the enactment of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) in 2005, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has continued its initiatives to promote a more integrated approach to the transportation planning and project development processes. Although this focus on integrated processes, especially for planning and the environment, is not new, it continues to evolve, incorporating new activities to better link planning and environmental review processes and related efforts.
The Benefits of LinkagesPEL streamlines decisionmaking processes by encouraging planning and environment staff at transportation and resource agencies to share tools and improve coordination.
FHWA has developed a number of programs to enhance both the planning and environmental review processes. The umbrella approach of Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) incorporates these two processes. PEL is an integrated approach to transportation decisionmaking that takes into account environmental, community, and economic goals throughout the project life cycle, from the planning stage through development, design, construction, and maintenance. PEL promotes greater communication within and among transportation and resource agencies, leading to improved decisionmaking and project development.
Using PEL, transportation and resource agencies can:
PEL is supported by Federal transportation regulations and FHWA programs and guidance that focus on improvements to planning and on environmental review processes.
The PEL Approach to Decisionmaking
Along with related planning and environmental review regulations and guidance, PEL creates a foundation for transportation staff and for transportation and resource agencies to build relationships and enhance decisionmaking processes. The diagram below depicts this foundation and the role of PEL.
Planning and Environment Linkages
In Decisionmaking Processes
*23 CFR 450.212, 318, Appendix A **23 CFR 450.214, 322
The diagram integrates decisions, activities, and related regulations that influence every transportation project. Some of these project components are discussed below.
The Relationship between Linking Planning and NEPA and PEL
PEL means completing certain activities in the planning process that can be helpful in project development. It can also help to link transportation and conservation planning. Examples of these linkages are environmental mapping and overlaying natural and historical resources with proposed transportation facilities. Related system-level planning activities include:
Transportation and resource agency activities are connected during system-level planning in the following ways.
Linking Planning and NEPA
Linking Planning and NEPA is the connection between system-level planning and project-level decisions. It integrates statewide and metropolitan transportation planning with the NEPA process to streamline project delivery. It also allows agencies to lay the foundation for purpose and need, define the range of alternatives and eliminate some of them, and begin the public involvement and documentation needed in the NEPA process during the planning stage. For more information, see Appendix A of the Statewide Transportation Planning, Metropolitan Transportation Planning, Final Rule (23 CFR 450.212, 318, and App. A), as well as the NCHRP 8-36 (48) report "Improved Linkage Between Transportation Systems Planning and the NEPA," which explains the benefits of Linking Planning and NEPA and how to implement the concepts.
Activities in project-level decisionmaking include:
Transportation and resource agency project-level decisions are connected when agencies work together to complete the NEPA / environmental review process, discussed below.
Relation of PEL to Regulations and Guidance
PEL implementation coordinates seamlessly with recent regulatory guidance on transportation planning and environmental review processes, including:
Useful Online PEL Resources
The PEL website contains resources and tools for implementing PEL. It includes benefits of PEL, getting started, effective practices, relevant legislation, regulations, guidance, and FHWA contacts.
The Re:NEPA topic area on Transportation Planning and NEPA Linkages is an open, online exchange of information about NEPA, PEL, and transportation decisionmaking.
"Successes in Stewardship" is a Federal Highway Administration newsletter highlighting current environmental streamlining and stewardship practices from around the country. To subscribe, visit the Registration Site, or call 617-494-3137.