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Streamlining Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) through Statewide GIS Applications
This map shows how transportation and resource agencies in Florida overlay proposed transportation projects on sensitive resources maps using their GIS Environmental Screening Tool.
Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) initiative is an approach to transportation decisionmaking that considers environmental, community, and economic goals early in the planning stage and carries decisions through development, design, construction, and maintenance. By promoting greater communication within and among transportation and resource agencies, PEL can help them to simplify decisionmaking and project development.
FHWA has recently begun to look more closely at the possibility of using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to further streamline the PEL approach. GIS is a collection of software, hardware, and data used to store, manipulate, analyze, and present geographically referenced information. With GIS applications, agencies can layer or merge multiple data sets for a given location to more effectively view and analyze the potential impacts of proposed projects. This allows transportation planners to integrate environmental information early in the planning and development process and facilitates more environmentally robust decisionmaking, both of which are key goals of PEL.
Peer Exchange on Using GIS for Planning and Environment Linkages
In October 2007, FHWA's Office of Environment, Planning, and Realty convened a one and a half-day peer exchange for state GIS, planning, and environmental staff to explore how GIS might help state Departments of Transportation (DOT) accomplish the goals of PEL. Attendees included representatives from the Florida, Idaho, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington state DOTs; the FHWA Oregon and Washington Division Offices; and the USDOT Volpe Center. Presentations and discussions focused on three core themes:
Participant discussions revealed there is no single model for how state DOTs can use GIS to further the goals of PEL. Some states already use formalized GIS processes and applications to screen projects for inclusion in their Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), while others are still working to build a centralized program through which GIS applications may be used.
As part of the peer exchange, state DOT staff described their current GIS activities and highlighted myriad ways that GIS can be applied to transportation decisionmaking. Discussion and presentations focused on:
Using GIS for PEL: FHWA Resources
Considerations for Using GIS in Planning and Environment Linkages
Throughout the peer exchange, state DOT participants shared lessons learned and suggestions based on their efforts to implement GIS for PEL outcomes. These concepts can be useful tools to consider when creating or enhancing a GIS system to better incorporate PEL goals. Recommendations included the following:
Next Steps in Developing GIS Tools for Planning and Environment Linkages
Participants also took the opportunity to share ideas on how to continue to develop GIS tools to advance PEL. These included:
The presentations and outcomes are available in the full report, Applications of GIS for PEL, located on both the GIS in Transportation and PEL websites.
"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 617-494-6352.