FRA, in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), is preparing a Tier II Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 123-mile portion of the Southeast High-Speed Rail (SEHSR) Corridor from Washington, DC to Richmond, VA (referred to as the DC2RVA Project). The environmental study area begins at the southern terminus of the Long Bridge over the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia and continues south to Centralia, Virginia at the CSXT A-Line/CSXT S-Line junction. The Tier II EIS for the DC2RVA Project involves further analysis to define the preferred alignment and level of intercity passenger train service to deliver for the portion of the SEHSR Corridor from Washington, DC to Richmond, VA. This Tier II EIS is based on the route and service characteristics selected through the 2002 Tier I EIS and Record of Decision for the SEHSR Corridor between Washington, DC and Charlotte, NC.
This Tier II environmental process has four basic goals:
(1) Update and confirm the purpose and need as established in the Tier I EIS for the Washington, DC to Richmond, VA portion of the SEHSR corridor;
(2) Develop site-specific rail alternatives for placement of a third track and other improvements;
(3) Conduct a detailed evaluation of environmental impacts for the alternatives; and
(4) Select a preferred alternative. The project also will include preliminary engineering for projects from Arlington to Centralia that are required to deliver SEHSR service at a maximum authorized speed (MAS) of 90 miles per hour (mph) along the corridor, as well as updating the existing service development plan (SDP) for operations along the corridor.
Additionally, the DC2RVA Project will include preliminary engineering and environmental analyses for related capacity improvements on adjacent CSXT routes that connect to the SEHSR Corridor in Richmond, including the CSXT Peninsula Subdivision from Downtown Richmond eastward along the James River, and on the Buckingham Branch Railroad from Downtown Richmond north through Doswell, VA. The Tier II Draft EIS, made available for public review in September 2017, includes a recommended preferred alternative for the full length of the DC2RVA corridor with the exception of two localities where specific improvements have not been identified: just south of the Potomac River in Arlington, VA, and through Ashland, VA. These areas will be evaluated for station, track, and safety improvements as well as the feasibility of constructing an additional track.
The SEHSR Corridor, one of eleven Federal high speed passenger rail corridors, was designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in 1992. The corridor was designated as running from Washington, DC through Richmond, VA and Raleigh, NC to Charlotte, NC. It is part of an overall plan to extend service from the existing high speed rail on the Northeast Corridor (Boston to Washington) to points in the Southeast. In 1995, DOT extended the SEHSR corridor to Hampton Roads, VA. In 1998, DOT created two more extensions: 1) from Charlotte through Spartanburg and Greenville, SC to Atlanta, GA and on through Macon, GA to Jacksonville, FL; and 2) from Raleigh through Columbia, SC and Savannah, GA to Jacksonville, FL and from Atlanta to Birmingham, AL.
A “tiered” approach was adopted for the SEHSR environmental studies because of the length of the corridor. The SEHSR Tier I EIS and Record of Decision covered the entire Washington, DC to Charlotte, NC corridor at a program level, establishing the overall project purpose and need and modal alternative along with the preferred corridor. FRA has advanced several Tier II environmental documents under this Tier I EIS that examine the various segments of the preferred corridor on a more detailed, local level. FRA completed a separate Tier II EIS for the Richmond to Raleigh portion of the SEHSR corridor in March 2017. The Tier II EIS for the DC2RVA Project that is the subject of this notice will examine the Washington, DC to Richmond portion of the SEHSR corridor and will include preliminary engineering in addition to the Tier II EIS.
On October 23, 2014, FRA published in the Federal Register a notice of intent to prepare the Tier II EIS for the DC2RVA Project. The notice described the environmental process and detailed the scoping that would take place.
On September 8, 2017, FRA published in the Federal Register the Tier II Draft EIS in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). The Tier II Draft EIS also addresses compliance under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act of 1966, and Section 6(f) of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act.
FRA and Virginia DRPT will accept public comments on the DEIS for 60 days beginning on September 8, 2017. The DEIS has instructions for submitting comments. DRPT and FRA will also hold four public meetings, one each in Alexandria, Fredericksburg, Ashland and Richmond. The dates and times for those meetings will be posted on DRPT’s project website: http://www.dc2rvarail.com.
For more information on the project, please contact John Winkle, FRA Environmental Protection Specialist, at John.Winkle@dot.gov or 202-493-6067
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.