Monday, September 11, 2017

FRA issues Southeast HSR DEIS

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief, Railway Age

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Sept. 8 announced completion of the Tier II Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the 123-mile section of the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor linking Washington, D.C. to south of Richmond, Va.

The DEIS is a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) requirement.

FRA and the Virginia DRPT (Department of Rail and Public Transportation) have recommended a Preferred Alternative in the DEIS that will rReduce passenger and freight congestion and improve on-time performance, accommodate planned and funded Virginia Rail Express (VRE) growth of four new round-trip trains, accommodate forecasted CSX freight growth through 2045 (doubling from approximately 21 trains in 2015 to 42 in 2045), Increase maximum train speeds from 69 mph to 79 mph between D.C. and Fredericksburg and to 90 mph between Fredericksburg and Richmond, and add nine new round-trip trains from D.C. to Richmond, with four continuing east to Hampton Roads and four south to Raleigh.

Total project cost is approximately $5 billion, estimated in 2025 dollars to reflect the first year of service. However, no construction funding commitments have been mader.

FRA and Virginia DRPT will accept public comments on the DEIS for 60 days beginning Sept. 8, 2017. Based on those comments on the DEIS and the Preferred Alternative, DRPT and FRA will prepare a Final EIS (FEIS), which will list environmental commitments to mitigate unavoidable impacts.

"Publication of the DEIS is a milestone in the NEPA review process," FRA said. "It initiates a comprehensive public comment period before the FRA issues an FEIS and Record of Decision. This action moves the project one step closer to the construction phase of the Southeast Corridor, which will improve freight and passenger rail traffic south of the nation's capital."