Southeast High-Speed Rail: Atlanta to Charlotte Passenger Rail Corridor

Environmental Impact Statement

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), in cooperation with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), has initiated a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Atlanta to Charlotte Passenger Rail Corridor Investment Plan. On May 16, 2013, FRA published in the Federal Register a Notice of Intent (NOI) for the EIS. The purpose of the Plan is to help determine future transportation investments of vital importance to all people who live, work, and travel in the Atlanta to Charlotte corridor. The Atlanta to Charlotte corridor is an integral extension of the Southeast High-Speed Rail (SEHSR) corridor*, as designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The SEHSR corridor will ultimately provide important connectivity between Atlanta and Washington, DC, and on to the Northeast Corridor to Boston, MA. 

FRA and GDOT initially considered six potential corridor-route alternatives including three shared-use alternatives for evaluation in the Tier 1 EIS:

  • The Norfolk Southern (NS) railroad corridor (also referred to as the Southern Crescent Corridor route);
  • The CSX Transportation (CSX) right of way between Atlanta, GA and Chester, SC via Athens, GA and NS right of way between Chester, SC and Charlotte, NC via Rock Hill, SC;
  • The CSX right of way between Atlanta and Augusta, GA and NS right of way between Augusta and Charlotte via Columbia, SC;
  • Two interstate alternatives: the I-85 corridor via Greenville and Spartanburg, SC and the I-20 and I-77 corridor via Columbia, SC; and
  • A greenfield corridor that offers the opportunity to define a fully grade-separated route alignment with optimal geometric characteristics for high-speed passenger rail service.

Upon completion of the public scoping process, GDOT prepared an Alternatives Development Report (ADR), which recommended the advancement of three corridor-route alternatives for further analysis in the Tier 1 EIS:

  • Alternative 1 – Southern Crescent; following the NS railroad corridor which hosts the existing Amtrak Crescent long-distance service;
  • Alternative 2 – I-85; following the I-85 right of way between Gastonia, NC and Suwanee, GA and transitioning to existing railroad rights of way in the approaches to the Atlanta, GA and Charlotte, NC termini; and
  • Alternative 3 – Greenfield; development of a new “greenfield” high-speed rail corridor between Atlanta, GA and Charlotte, NC and transitioning to existing railroad rights of way in the approaches to the Atlanta, GA and Charlotte, NC termini.

The exact alignments and routes for the termini of the alternatives have not yet been finalized and will be further defined in the Tier 1 EIS; however, each of the alternatives will include service to downtown and airport stations in both Atlanta, GA and Charlotte, NC. In particular, the project will consider connectivity between the proposed Georgia Multimodal Passenger Terminal (MMPT) and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, and between the proposed Charlotte Gateway Station and Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.

As part of the study, FRA and GDOT will analyze corridor alternatives, station locations, service technologies including diesel and electrified operations, service frequency, and hours of service. Other route alternatives may also be evaluated pending the outcome and identification of additional alternatives from the agency and public scoping meetings.

For more information on the Atlanta to Charlotte project, please visit GDOT's project website at http://www.dot.ga.gov/IS/Rail/AtlantatoCharlotte.

* The SEHSR corridor is one of the five original high-speed rail corridors designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The corridor initially connected Charlotte, NC, Richmond, VA, and Washington, DC. The corridor has been extended over time, and more information can be found on the High-Speed Rail Timeline page. The section from Charlotte to Washington, DC was studied in a Tier I EIS, for which FRA and the Federal Highway Administration issued a Record of Decision (ROD) in 2002. On March 24, 2017, FRA issued a Tier II ROD for the Raleigh, NC to Richmond, VA segment. FRA and the North Carolina Department of Transportation also completed numerous individual Tier II studies for the Charlotte to Raleigh section. Finally, FRA and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation are working on a Tier II EIS for the Richmond to Washington, DC section, and on August 30, 2017, FRA signed the Tier II DEIS for that section.

Permitting Dashboard

The U.S. Permitting Dashboard is an online tool for Federal agencies, project sponsors, and interested members of the public to track the Federal government’s environmental review and authorization processes for large or complex infrastructure projects. The Dashboard is part of a government-wide effort to improve coordination, transparency, and accountability. A link to this project’s page on the Dashboard is below.

Permitting Dashboard Link