As part of its ongoing transportation planning activities, SPC continues to implement planning activities consistent with FHWA’s Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL) initiative and PennDOT Linking Planning and NEPA (LPN) and PennDOT Connects initiatives.
Planning and Environmental Linkage
The PEL is a collaborative and integrated approach to transportation decision making that 1) considers environmental, community, and economic goals early in the transportation planning process, and 2) uses the information, analysis, and products developed during planning to inform the environmental review process. In addition, it strives to improve interagency cooperation to guide both transportation agencies (state DOTs and MPOs) and resource agencies in addressing natural resource issues system-wide.
PEL in the Long Range Plan
As part of the Mapping the Future: Southwestern PA Plan:
- SPC developed a Regional Ecosystem Framework GIS model that quantitatively identifies concentrations of sensitive natural resources. This analysis tool will be used by SPC and member planning entities to assess the environmental resources involvement in future infrastructure projects.
- SPC consulted with numerous federal and state natural and cultural resource agencies in the development of Planning and Environmental Linkage aspects of Mapping the Future, resulting in the completion of a Planning and Environmental Linkage (PEL) Addendum Report.
- The PEL work associated with the long range plan produced several regional planning tools, including the regional ecosystem framework model and a wetland mitigation suitability planning tool.
- LRP PEL Addendum Report Material
Example of the Wetland Mitigation Site Suitability tool
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Linking Planning and NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act)
LPN is a process that focuses on identifying infrastructure needs early in the planning process and provides a consistent means of collecting and recording key information relating to project purpose and need, project context, potential project limits, and potential environmental resource impacts that will provide a better understanding of the key issues that may affect the project delivery schedule and budget. The focuses of this effort is to provide additional information that allow for better screening of TIP candidate projects and to contribute planning information pertaining to NEPA to post-TIP project development. SPC staff work with PennDOT and other project sponsors to populate individual the PennDOT LPN Level 2 screening forms for all TIP candidate projects.
LPN elements in TIP Development
As part of LPN activities associated with the SPC Transportation Improvement Plan update, SPC staff:
- Uses the PennDOT LPN level 2 screening forms on all TIP Candidate projects and integrates screening forms into the TIP decision-making process at the work group level.
- Develops interactive maps highlighting land use and contextual planning elements of TIP candidate projects.
- Conducts preliminary environmental screenings on selected new TIP projects, including field views by environmental specialists. This information is compiled into concise reports that are provided to project sponsors.
SPC will continue to advance environmental considerations early in the planning process, develop candidate project information, and collaborate to assist pre-TIP PEL/LPN elements.
Key 2016 Highlights
SPC transportation planners have been involved in several recent activities related to establishing and utilizing improved processes, developing candidate project information, and collaboration to assist pre-TIP transportation planning and environmental linkage. The following are some specific activities achieved in 2016:
- 2017 TIP Update
- New technological planning tools were developed including an interactive map of all TIP candidate projects with contextual layers tied to key LRP performance measures.
- SPC staff, with consultant assistance, completed detailed environmental scoping on 20 TIP projects most likely to have environmental impacts. Information provided to project sponsors included a detailed description of environmental and cultural resources present as well as an assessment of environmental clearance documentation and permits required for each resource.
- SPC planners utilized the wetland mitigation suitability planning tool to assist PennDOT District 12-0 in researching wetland mitigation sites associated with I-70 improvements.
- SPC staff member continues to participate in the PennDOT Statewide Linking Planning and NEPA Advisory Committee.
- SPC staff member continues participate on the State Innovation Council, Environmental Technical Advisory Group, providing support to a STIC initiative on Historic Bridge Section 106 Mitigation.
- SPC staff developed a partnership with Western PA Conservancy to submit a DCNR C2P2 planning grant application. In December, DCNR announced that this application, proposing to update the region’s Natural Heritage inventory, was successfully selected to receive funding.
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