Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) has been identified as one of ten initiatives to be included in a toolkit that will address shortening project delivery time. The PEL initiative focuses on the part of PEL that encourages the use of information developed in planning to inform the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. This can lead to less duplication of effort and more informed project-level decisions.
Transportation agencies can conduct a “PEL study,” which is any type of transportation planning study conducted at the corridor or subarea level, to link planning information directly or by reference into NEPA. To be viable in NEPA, a PEL study must involve interested State, local, Tribal, and Federal agencies as well as the public, document relevant decisions in a form that is identifiable and available for review during the NEPA scoping process and can be appended to or referenced in the NEPA document, and be accepted by the NEPA lead agencies. The regulatory authority to use planning information in NEPA was explicitly clarified in SAFETEA-LU, including the flexibility of funding that agencies can use.
In order to aid agencies in incorporating PEL principles into their planning and environment review processes, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) introduced the PEL Questionnaire, an adaptation of a questionnaire jointly developed by the Colorado Department of Transportation and FHWA Colorado Division Office to ensure that planning information and decisions are properly documented to be utilized in the NEPA review process.