Idaho I-15/US-20 Corridor PEL Project Wins FHWA Environmental Excellence Award

State’s First Planning and Environmental Linkages Study Sets Example for Five Future Projects

The I-15/US-20 Connector PEL project has been selected as a recipient of an FHWA 2022 Environmental Excellence Award. The Federal Highway Administration’s EEAs recognize outstanding contributions to environmental stewardship and partnerships above and beyond traditional transportation project outcomes. 

The Planning and Environment Linkages study was an important preliminary step in redesigning the I-15/US-20 corridor to provide safe and reliable travel for the next 25 years and beyond to meet anticipated future growth. It was the first PEL study done in Idaho and is now the leading example for five more PEL studies in the state. PELs help define the project upfront and establish rapport among team members.

HDR led the PEL study for the Idaho Transportation Department and addressed safety and congestion concerns for a 6-mile corridor of I-15 and US-20, including six interchanges leading to downtown Idaho Falls, local businesses, a regional airport, university satellite campuses, and recreational attractions such as Yellowstone Park and Jackson Hole. Regional growth and the close spacing of the interchanges have caused congestion and safety issues. 

With Tracy Ellwein, P.E., project manager, and Jason Longsdorf, AICP, transportation planning/PEL lead, guiding the project, HDR identified and analyzed alternatives to help position ITD for future funding improvements to address safety, congestion, mobility and travel time reliability. We coordinated with the City of Idaho Falls, Bonneville County and the Bonneville Metropolitan Planning Organization to account for future land use and development in determining project-specific travel demand forecasts to analyze and compare each alternative’s performance. Two alternatives were recommended for further study in a National Environmental Policy Act process.

“We recognize the success of the project's collaboration, partnerships, and extensive proactive public involvement that will help shorten the project development timeline and build community support for two refined corridor redesign alternatives moving into the National Environmental Policy Act review,” said Thomas D. Everett, FHWA executive director.

For more information on HDR’s PEL experience and resources read, Experts Talk: Planning and Environmental Linkages with Gina McAfee and Jason Longsdorf.

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