The Federal Highway Administration has published four case studies detailing hypothetical uses of Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) by agencies seeking to accelerate project delivery. PEL supports discussing community, economic, and environmental benefits and impacts during the planning stage, preventing backtracking during environmental review and making transportation project development a smoother process overall. The case studies and additional information are valuable resources to be considered prior to project commencement, providing potentially time- and money-saving guidance.
About the Planning and Environment Case Studies
In all four hypothetical case studies, PEL Study Goals are noted with the need to collect data, engage stakeholders and the public, create documentation, and establish a project problem statement.
The first case study describes a region with complicated development needs and the use of PEL to develop alternatives contingent on receiving or failing to receive funding. The described study collects information and notes decisions made being done with the goal of informing any subsequent environmental studies. The process generates two alternatives, allowing for best decisions to be made whether the hypothetical project were to remain funded or lose its funding.
The second case study describes how a State DOT could develop tools to identify PEL considerations during early project planning. The hypothetical state planning and environment linkage (StatePEL) geospatial tool would require time and resources to assemble. After negotiating with all the pertinent resource agencies, a State DOT could develop a secure and tailored database. This would enable users to input proposed project details and receive a report identifying potential project impacts and likely severity.
The third case study describes how a State DOT could conduct a PEL study with the potential for numerous alternative solutions. The gathering of information can be done by conducting early screening and identification of transportation and land-use goals. Analyzing this gathered data allows early modification of a proposed project to avoid impacts or develop sustainable mitigation strategies. Active and frequent engagement of resource agencies contributes strongly to project success.
The fourth case study describes the use of PEL to identify needs for future projects. Regional information gathered at this level could be carried forward into the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The goal of this study is to demonstrate the importance of establishing a clear purpose and need for the project during planning. Upon consensus, agencies can share a purpose and need statement with the public.