While planning and the environment can be linked
at almost any stage of the decision-making process,
the most effective way for linkages to work is to
coordinate as early as possible and ensure consistency
with initial transportation plans as project planning
moves forward. PEL should then be carried forward
into project development, environment review
(NEPA-level or similar state environmental review
process), design, and ultimately construction, mainte-
nance, and operations.
Over the last 10 years, partner agencies have placed
increased focus on integrating their planning.
Integrated planning is the connection between
resource conservation and management plans and
transportation planning. While resource data can
be integrated at any stage of the transportation
process (e.g., planning, project development, design,
construction, maintenance), early integration is
best since it is much more difficult to fully connect
resource agency goals and priorities at later stages.
Inconsistent or incompatible goals and priorities
among transportation and resource agencies typically
pose a major source of conflict and delay.
Integrating respective planning efforts helps develop
consensus on how best to confront inconsistencies and
generally produces significant time and money saving
benefits for transportation decision-making. This type
of collaborative planning offers opportunities to see
and act on broader scale patterns and trends in our
communities, regions, and ecosystems that are simply
missed if environmental and community aspects are
only addressed at the project level.
Linking Planning and NEPA
Considerable attention has also been given to
Linking Planning and NEPA, which can be defined
as the connection between system-level planning
and project-level decisions. It lays the foundation
for key information such as (1) the Purpose & Need
for the action; (2) a reasonable range of alterna-
tives for meeting the stated need; (3) a description
of the affected environment; and (4) the anticipated
Many states have participated in FHWA Linking
Planning and NEPA workshops and developed
action plans to tie their planning and environmental
processes together more tightly, in more helpful and
reinforcing ways that yield process efficiencies and
Separate from establishing the relationships needed
to make PEL work, the mechanics for linking
planning and environment are easy. PEL uses infor-
mation developed during one planning process as the
starting point for the next.
The information mutually agreed to be transferred
between planning and the environmental process can
be one of three types: data, analyses, or decisions.
Examples of each type of information include:
Data: road inventory, stakeholder identified
needs, protected species habitat locations or
mapped priority conservation areas.
Analyses: transportation demand modeling
need analyses for the base year and future
years, comparisons of plan alternatives to the
plan evaluation criteria, watershed conditions,
and primary threats to water quality or certain
Decisions: locally preferred conceptual solutions
for an individual corridor as endorsed by policy
boards, solutions concepts rejected by the local
policy board, watershed improvement priorities,
and critical conservation priorities.