Note: This information was archived in April 2009. For the current information, see http://environment.fhwa.dot.gov/integ/related.asp.
Planning and the environment are directly linked. Since 1970, when the National Environmental Policy Act was signed into law, the transportation planning process has been tied to the environmental planning and review process. Since then, a myriad of laws, regulations, and court cases over the years has reinforced this connection.
Despite this underpinning, few if any professionals have a thorough understanding of both transportation planning and the environmental process. Most transportation agencies are organized along functional lines. Employees usually work in one area and rarely see a project through from planning to construction and maintenance. Likewise, resource agencies are typically organized along environmental disciplines. Few of their employees are experts in transportation planning. Thus, although planning and the environment are closely linked, in practice there is an inherent contradiction–the linkage is lacking. The result is a gulf between resource conservation management, transportation planning, and mandated environmental review work. To bridge this gap, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) developed the Planning & Environment Linkages Implementation Resource Guide.
The Resource Guide discusses how to take advantage of planning and environment linkages. Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) are logical connection points between transportation planning and the environmental process. PEL helps streamline project delivery and improves planning and project level decision-making. It helps transportation agencies balance safety, mobility, environmental, community, and economic goals. In addition, PEL helps resource and land use agencies have a more meaningful and direct impact on transportation planning and resultant projects.
Although much has been written over the last several years that encourage PEL, it is not always clear to transportation professionals how to implement these linkages. This resource guide helps practitioners better understand these linkages. It explains the concepts of PEL, describes how agencies can benefit from it, and provides references and diagrams to help practitioners from multiple disciplines understand how best to bring about Planning and Environment Linkages.
The included sections provide additional background information on PEL. They take the reader through specific linkages, describing how to make connection points stronger, explaining what can be gained from them, and encouraging their use.