Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL)

Use this guidance to determine if a Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study is right for your planning effort and to assist you throughout the PEL process.

What is PEL?

Federal PEL studies use a collaborative and integrated approach to transportation decision making that considers environmental, community, and economic benefits and impacts early in the transportation planning process. PEL uses information, analysis, and products developed during planning to inform environmental review. PEL is a bridge (or “link”) between planning and environmental studies.

A PEL study can improve information sharing, create efficiencies, build better communication, initiate early consultation and collaboration with FHWA and other agencies, tribes, and stakeholders, and result in better environmental outcomes, expedited permit decisions, and accelerated project delivery. The NEPA & SEPA webpage has more information on the environmental review process.  

We partner with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) or the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on PEL studies. The FHWA PEL webpage includes additional PEL information and resources.

View this recorded introductory PEL training for an overview of the federal PEL requirements. WSP provided this training to WSDOT staff in October 2021.

The PEL Process

This WSDOT PEL process tool highlights the process, interim steps, and key deliverables of a PEL study.

PEL project requirements depend on the reason for the PEL and the desired outcome. This WSDOT PEL Authorities Chart shows each authority and the related requirements to reach the desired outcome. PEL Studies that aim to formally adopt planning products such as the Purpose and Need or reasonable range of alternatives into NEPA choose the 23 USC 168 PEL authority. Other broader PEL studies use the 23 CFR 450 PEL authority, allowing planning products developed during the study to be used or incorporated by reference into future NEPA documents.

The WSDOT PEL Questionnaire helps teams scope and develop a PEL project and is recommended to use and revisit throughout the PEL process. The Questionnaire documents important decision-making throughout the PEL process, as well as outreach and engagement with local, state, tribal, and federal agencies, stakeholders, and the public, consideration of key environmental factors, and the development of a range of reasonable alternatives to use or adopt into the future environmental review. For more information on requirements for PEL, see Chapter 200 of the Environmental Manual.

Contact WSDOT’s NEPA & PEL Specialist to discuss whether a PEL study will meet your needs and to develop a PEL study strategy, if appropriate.

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