Planning and environment linkages (PEL) is a collaborative and integrated approach that considers environmental, community, and economic goals in the initial stages of transportation planning and uses the information, analysis, and products developed in the planning stages to inform the environmental review process. PEL is a valuable tool for creating efficiency in transportation project development and supporting agencies to accelerate project delivery.
PEL stakeholders include transportation planners, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) practitioners, resource agency staff, and the general public.
PEL represents a collaborative and integrated approach to transportation decision-making that considers the benefits and impacts of proposed transportation system improvements to the environment, community, and economy during the transportation planning process. When environmental considerations are integral to the early stages of the planning process, planners see two major benefits:
The PEL approach is encouraged by FHWA and FTA, but it is not a federal requirement. The agencies issued optional PEL guidance in 2007 as Appendix A of the joint FHWA and FTA statewide and metropolitan transportation planning and programming regulations. This guidance clarified how and when transportation planning can be adopted or incorporated by reference into NEPA.
The FAST ACT of 2015 is designed to accelerate the environmental review process for surface transportation projects. The Act provides sections for "Efficient environmental reviews for project decision-making" (section 1304), "Integration of planning and environmental review " (section 1305), and "Development of programmatic mitigation plans" (section 1306); these sections contain language for approaches to implement efficient environmental reviews and to integrate environmental reviews into the transportation planning process in order to accelerate project delivery.