Why did the process change from a Tier 1 EIS to a PEL
The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have determined that a Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study is the most appropriate approach moving forward to accomplish the goal of selecting a corridor for Interstate 11 (I-11) through the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The I-11 Las Vegas Metropolitan Area PEL study will be performed to evaluate and select a corridor for I-11 in lieu of a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
In 2014, a PEL study was conducted for a much larger, regional corridor and not specifically focused on the Las Vegas metropolitan area for the Intermountain West Corridor Study (IWCS). The current I-11 Las Vegas Metropolitan Area PEL study considers alternative corridors through Las Vegas, to further the work developed in the IWCS. A Tier 1 EIS was initially considered to be the appropriate means to develop and evaluate alternative corridors, and to recommend a preferred corridor to advance to a project-level Tier 2 environmental process for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NDOT and FHWA have recently determined that a focused PEL study will achieve the same objectives within a shorter time period. At the conclusion of the I-11 PEL study, NDOT and FHWA will jointly issue a Decision Document selecting a single corridor along which to build future I-11 projects through the Las Vegas metropolitan area.
Planning and Environmental Linkages Study
PEL studies are conducted to link transportation planning and the environmental process. The PEL study, for federally funded projects, lays the groundwork for the future studies that may be used during the NEPA process. The PEL study informs the project purpose and need, defines the important issues and identifies critical environmental concerns, and recommends alternatives to be further evaluated in the NEPA process. The I-11 Las Vegas Metropolitan Area PEL study evaluates broad corridors for the identification of the location of the I-11 facility. Through coordination with local, regional, state, and federal partners, including regulatory agencies and public stakeholders, the PEL recognizes potential risks of impacts related to the identified alternatives.
There is ongoing opportunity for the public and regional stakeholders to remain engaged during the I-11 Las Vegas Metropolitan Area PEL study.
As the PEL process develops the overall vision for transportation improvements in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, it also builds support from the community and other key stakeholders while providing a platform to discuss and prioritize transportation issues that relate to project implementation. The PEL process creates valuable documentation to streamline next steps in the project as alternatives are developed and evaluated. The I-11 project team will evaluate and process all comments received during the PEL process. The PEL process also ensures:
- Reasonable transportation alternatives are considered
- Community input and involvement play a key role
- Environmental and community effects are disclosed
The study begins with potential issues, opportunities, and concerns that will be solicited from various stakeholders to understand the scope of work and topics to address during the study. A PEL study must involve interested state, local, tribal, and federal agencies, as well as the public. PEL documentation can be appended to or referenced in the subsequent NEPA document.
Feasible corridor options will be screened using criteria consisting of multiple quantitative and qualitative measures that correspond with the purpose and need, public and agency input, and potential impacts to communities and environmental resources.
The I-11 Las Vegas Metropolitan Area PEL study will document socioeconomic and environmental impacts and estimate the total cost for corridor alternatives under consideration. The draft PEL report will be available for public and agency review and the final PEL report will incorporate any changes based on comments received during the public comment review period. In addition, the final PEL report will include: a description of the existing transportation, environmental, and social conditions in the Las Vegas metropolitan area; an evaluation of the alternative corridors considered; and a framework within which NDOT and FHWA can advance individual projects along the selected corridor. The result of the study will produce a joint FHWA and NDOT Decision Document that will state not only their approval of the PEL study, as is required for an appropriate PEL process, but also include FHWA and NDOT’s selection of a recommended I-11 corridor. A final PEL report will include any potential environmental resources that may be affected. Future improvements along the selected I-11 corridor will be subject to compliance with NEPA.
Environmental Resources Addressed in the PEL Study:
- Air Quality
- Biological Resources
- Economic Impacts
- Geology and Hazardous Materials
- Cultural Resources, including Tribal Lands
- Land Use
- Noise and Vibration
- Parks, Recreation, and Other Community Facilities
- Socioeconomic and Environmental Justice
- Visual and Aesthetics
- Water Resources
The Decision Document that will be included with the Final PEL Report will:
- Confirm the selected corridor
- Present the basis for the decision
- Describe the corridor alternatives considered
- Provide strategies to avoid minimize or compensate for environmental impacts
Ongoing Public Engagement Opportunities
Opportunities for the public to provide input during the development of the I-11 Las Vegas Metropolitan Area PEL report are ongoing throughout the PEL process. A draft PEL report will be advertised and published for public review during which additional stakeholder outreach will be facilitated to encourage and obtain community feedback.
Comments may be submitted during the public hearing, through the project email, website, hotline, or direct mail. All comments will be integrated into the I-11 Las Vegas Metropolitan Area PEL as formal documentation of community issues, opportunities, and concerns.
Due to the Governor’s mandate regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, NDOT and its partners will lean on virtual engagement and online methods and strategies, such as virtual online meetings and telephone town halls, that allow projects and communications to continue forward while creating effective dialogue with constituents. A list of public engagement opportunities will be listed on the website at key project milestones.