What is the Record of Decision for NEC FUTURE?
The Record of Decision documents the FRA's formal selection of an investment program for the Northeast Corridor (NEC), referred to as the Selected Alternative.
What is the Selected Alternative?
The Selected Alternative represents a vision for the NEC that will help to facilitate and expedite investment in the NEC for the next several decades.
Does the Record of Decision lead to construction?
No, the ROD does not result in construction, and no agency permits or approvals will be applied for or issued as part of this Tier 1 EIS process.
When will Tier 2 projects begin?
The pace and phasing of projects to advance the Selected Alternative will depend on many factors, including decisions by the railroads and Northeast states, the availability of funding, market conditions (travel demand), and practical operating constraints.
Tier 2 projects to advance the Selected Alternative would range from near-term priority projects to help achieve a state of good repair to major capital projects that may not occur for decades. The NEC railroads and Northeast states, along with the NEC Commission, will play leading roles in determining how and when the various Tier 2 projects move forward. Tier 2 projects between New Haven and Providence will not begin until completion of the New Haven to Providence Capacity Planning Study. The timing of this study will be determined by the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island, in cooperation with the FRA.
Integral to implementing the Selected Alternative will be coordinated service and investment planning through ongoing corridor-wide planning. Corridor-wide planning continues with the Service Development Plan (SDP) and SDP Updates, in which NEC stakeholders establish priorities and determine how to advance the Selected Alternative. The continued planning process will consider implementation strategies, including the phasing of work and development of approaches for the efficient use of construction outages.show
The Northeast Corridor (NEC) is the 457-mile rail transportation spine that runs from Washington, D.C., to Boston, carrying more than 2,200 intercity, commuter, and freight trains per day. Most of the rail line is owned by Amtrak, with New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts also owning portions of the line. The NEC carries over 750,000 riders per day on trains operated by Amtrak and eight commuter rail authorities.
NEC FUTURE is the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) comprehensive plan for the Northeast Corridor (NEC), initiated in 2012 to establish a framework for future investment in the corridor. NEC FUTURE includes a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement, conducted in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, and a Service Development Plan, which will serve as a roadmap for implementation.
The purpose of the NEC FUTURE rail investment program is to upgrade aging infrastructure and to improve the reliability, capacity, connectivity, performance, and resiliency of passenger rail service on the NEC for both intercity and regional trips, while promoting environmental sustainability and economic growth.
Under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), there are various levels of environmental review that can be undertaken by an agency. NEPA provides the flexibility to assess projects in a staged approach known as “tiering,” where broad programs and issues are addresses in an initial Tier 1 or programmatic level analysis, followed by site-specific, project-level (Tier 2) studies. The FRA determined that a Tier 1 EIS was the appropriate level of NEPA documentation for NEC FUTURE due to the nature of the decision being made at this stage, as well as the complexity of the NEC and the multi-jurisdictional nature of the passenger rail operations.
The FRA conducted NEC FUTURE as a "tiered" review under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 as amended (42 U.S.C. 4321-4327) (NEPA) and CEQ regulations (40 C.F.R. Parts 1500-1508), and other applicable laws, regulations, and guidance. The CEQ regulations state that tiering is appropriate when an agency’s analysis moves from a “program, plan, or policy environmental impact statement” to “site-specific statement or analysis.” (40 C.F.R. 1508.28(a)). In this way, tiering allows for programmatic decisions to be made and broad issues to be identified through an initial (Tier 1) programmatic level analysis, and project-level decisions to be informed by subsequent (Tier 2) site-specific analyses. The NEC FUTURE Selected Alternative, as defined in the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), contains a range of possible rail improvements, represented at a conceptual level, including information about the cities and towns to be served and the types of rail service to be provided.
The Selected Alternative sets a framework for future investment, but does not identify specific locations for improvement projects or result in any construction. The Tier 1 decision will be followed by site specific, project-level studies (Tier 2) to be undertaken by individual project sponsors, such as states and railroads, and federal agencies over the next several decades. Each Tier 2 project study will involve engineering, design, and environmental review with appropriate involvement of affected communities and the public.
The Selected Alternative, as described in the Record of Decision, is a refinement of the Preferred Alternative identified in the Tier 1 Final EIS. In identifying the Selected Alternative, the FRA considered the same factors used to identify the Preferred Alternative: the technical analyses in the Tier 1 Draft and Final EISs, U.S. DOT and FRA policy objectives, and input received from the public and stakeholders, particularly feedback received following issuance of the Tier 1 Final EIS.
The Selected Alternative will improve the reliability, capacity, connectivity, performance, and resiliency of passenger rail services on the NEC to meet future Northeast mobility needs for 2040 and beyond.
The Selected Alternative will improve the NEC by expanding capacity and improving service to grow the role of rail in the Northeast. The Selected Alternative modernizes the NEC to a state of good repair and recommends enhanced passenger rail operations to meet corridor-wide service goals. Modernizing the NEC will accomplish the foundational improvements necessary to maintain safe, reliable operations throughout the NEC. Additional capacity and chokepoint elimination will substantially eliminate operating conflicts, such as when one train must wait for another, between passenger trains and with freight rail operations.
The Selected Alternative will support economic development as it strengthens the existing rail network and transportation system by giving people better access to urban centers, jobs, and destinations throughout the Northeast region. Finally, the Selected Alternative makes it possible to improve the NEC in phases, with less disruption to passengers and greater cost savings. Near-term benefits can be achieved, while flexibility is maintained by expanding capacity incrementally to adapt to market conditions and future funding availability.
In short, the Selected Alternative provides more reliable and frequent train travel with shorter travel times and easy connections to more places.
The Selected Alternative is a corridor-wide vision for the NEC that identifies improvements to grow the role of rail within the transportation system of the Northeast.
This vision for the NEC will achieve modern, efficient passenger rail service for travelers in the Northeast. The Selected Alternative significantly enhances NEC passenger rail service across the region, providing sufficient capacity to greatly increase service frequency, improve travel time, and increase connectivity between markets on and off the NEC rail network.
As the Selected Alternative is implemented and improvements come online, it will enable operators of the NEC rail network to adopt service concepts that will enhance the passenger rail experience. Common-ticketing and more-convenient schedules and connections will improve passenger experience and make rail a more user-friendly transportation option for travelers in the Northeast. Enhanced service concepts such as integrating Intercity and Regional rail ticketing, operations, and services, as well as incorporating a new corridor-wide Metropolitan service to connect local stations with Hub and Major Hub (also referred to as terminal) stations can fundamentally change and improve passenger experience. Better intermodal connections will be created by concentrating improvements on urban Hub stations well served by transit and by allowing for convenient airport access with frequent Intercity and Regional service.
The Selected Alternative provides more-reliable and frequent train travel with shorter travel times and easy connections to more places in the Northeast and beyond. Limited-stop Intercity-Express service will offer competitive trip times and substantial operating profit potential that could support public-private partnership financing. The potential of the rail travel market, as shown in the analysis for the Selected Alternative, increases the attractiveness of private investment for those improvements.
The Selected Alternative will support economic development in the Northeast as it strengthens the existing rail network and transportation system by giving people better access to urban centers, jobs, and destinations throughout the region. Finally, the Selected Alternative makes it possible to improve the NEC in phases, with less disruption to passengers and greater cost savings. Near-term benefits can be achieved, while flexibility is maintained by expanding capacity incrementally to adapt to market conditions and future funding availability.
No, the Selected Alternative does not include infrastructure elements that increase capacity or improve performance between New Haven, CT, and Providence, RI (such as a new segment between Old Saybrook, CT and Kenyon, RI, or new track between Branford and Guildford, CT).
The FRA found that there is a fundamental need to expand capacity, improve performance, and increase resiliency (including some sections using new rights-of-way) between New Haven, CT, and Providence, RI. Due to physical constraints in the geography of the area, expanding the rail line largely along the existing NEC right-of-way is not possible and does not meet the NEC FUTURE Purpose and Need. Comments received during the Tier 1 Draft EIS comment period and feedback received following issuance of the Tier 1 Final EIS indicated that there is broad public concern regarding the impacts associated with the Old Saybrook to Kenyon new segment included in the Preferred Alternative. At this time, there is no consensus regarding the appropriate railroad infrastructure elements in this area. The Selected Alternative thus requires a capacity planning study in Connecticut and Rhode Island, in cooperation with the FRA, to identify additional on- and off-corridor infrastructure as needed to achieve the service and performance objectives in the Selected Alternative.
The New Haven to Providence Capacity Planning Study should consider inland as well as shoreline routes (both on and off the existing NEC) for providing passenger rail service between New Haven and Providence consistent with the Selected Alternative. While the geographic focus of the Capacity Planning Study is in Connecticut and Rhode Island, outcomes from the study will necessarily influence passenger rail services north of Hartford to Springfield and north of Providence to Boston. As such, the FRA expects that Connecticut and Rhode Island will engage with Massachusetts and other appropriate stakeholders to identify and address how the New Haven to Providence Capacity Planning Study may address future rail services to Springfield and/or physical changes to the Hartford/Springfield Line and improved service from Providence to Boston. Completion of the New Haven to Providence Capacity Planning Study will be a pre-condition to any Tier 2 projects that are intended to increase capacity between New Haven and Providence.
Successful implementation of the Selected Alternative is expected to be a long-term effort requiring on-going support from numerous regional stakeholders. No single source or method of funding and financing is expected to provide the total amount of funding required, nor is all of the funding needed today. Through NEC FUTURE, the FRA identified a critical need for an on-going, sustained program of capital investment in the NEC that would enable the region to address the corridor’s most critical needs today and advance the long-term vision for the corridor.
A successful funding and financing program to advance the Selected Alternative will allow for flexibility in assembling funding partners that reflect the nature of the infrastructure work being completed. Funding approaches could include: federal grants and loans, state or local government funds, public-private partnerships, bonds or commercial debt, passenger revenues, or special purpose tax districts. All of these methods have been used to advance similar work along the NEC in the past. Potential partners and project sponsors include the federal government, a state or group of states, local governments, Amtrak, commuter railroad authorities, private entities, or a combination of these organizations.
Following issuance of the ROD, the FRA initiated service development planning in coordination with the NEC Commission, to inform the process of implementing the Selected Alternative.
Using the ROD and Selected Alternative as a guide, the states, railroads, and other stakeholders will decide how to move forward with the different projects that will build a Northeast Corridor for the future. The ROD will not result in any construction. Project design, environmental review and permitting leading to construction requires the completion of future Tier 2 project studies (and between New Haven, CT, and Providence, RI, the completion of a Capacity Planning Study). The location of new or additional infrastructure can only be decided through future Tier 2 environmental and engineering studies.
The Service Development Plan (SDP) is a planning process used by the FRA to understand phased implementation of proposed corridor improvements. For NEC FUTURE, the SDP will provide analysis of implementation issues and strategies for the Selected Alternative and a framework for follow-on corridor-wide planning.
All Tier 2 project studies for new rail segments will require the support and collaboration of the NEC states and District of Columbia and the participation of any affected communities. Potential partners in Tier 2 project studies include railroad owners and operators, federal and state agencies, local governments, and private-sector partners. The FRA could take a lead or supporting role in future Tier 2 studies, but in either case, support from the affected states would be necessary. The FRA is committed to working with the states, railroads, and communities across the NEC to plan and advance the rail improvements necessary to grow the Northeast region of the United States.
The NEC Commission Five-Year Capital Plan is a region-wide action and funding plan for infrastructure projects that are underway or planned on the Northeast Corridor and connecting corridors to Harrisburg, Albany, and Springfield. The NEC Commission Five-Year Capital Plan results from collaboration between NEC Commission members and identifies both funded projects and unfunded projects that could be advanced within the next five years if additional funding were made available. The Five-Year Capital Plan is updated and approved annually by the NEC Commission in the spring and then transmitted to Congress as a unified capital request for the NEC.
In contrast to the Five -Year Capital Plan, NEC FUTURE took a longer-term look at the role of rail in the region. It included alternatives evaluation and environmental impact analyses that are not part of the Five-Year Capital Plan. The FRA coordinated closely with the NEC Commission throughout the NEC FUTURE process, and will continue this coordination.
The NEC FUTURE Service Development Plan will help guide the investment strategy and project prioritization of future investment throughout the NEC. Accordingly, subsequent annual updates to the Five-Year Capital Plan developed and adopted by the NEC Commission will reflect the investment strategy and framework provided by the NEC FUTURE planning process.
The Gateway Program's preservation and capacity enhancing elements are represented in the NEC FUTURE Selected Alternative; these elements include the addition of new tunnel capacity between New Jersey and New York and new platform capacity at Penn Station New York.
The FRA committed to an open and transparent public involvement process for NEC FUTURE and sought to foster a broad dialogue about the corridor’s future. The FRA proactively sought stakeholder and public involvement throughout the NEPA process. Outreach included hundreds of meetings with state DOTs and railroads, the NEC Commission (an organization established through federal legislation to promote mutual cooperation and planning for the NEC), resource and regulatory agencies, as well as public meetings, workshops, hearings, and open houses in each of the NEC states, virtual webinars for agencies and the public, and maintaining the NEC FUTURE website.
In August 2012, the FRA held agency and public scoping meetings in each of the NEC’s eight states and the District of Columbia. The agency meetings were attended by over 100 federal, state, regional, and local agencies, rail and transit operators, and tribal governments. Over 500 people attended the public meetings, which included a presentation, open house, and opportunities for formal public and private testimony. The FRA received nearly 2,500 different comments from approximately 800 individuals and organizations. These comments helped shape the development of alternatives for evaluation in the Tier 1 Draft EIS.
When the FRA released the Tier 1 Draft EIS in November 2015, the FRA held a three- month comment period from November 13, 2015, to February 16, 2016 and conducted eleven public hearings. The FRA received 5,000 comments, which the FRA considered in identifying the Preferred Alternative presented in the Tier 1 Final EIS. The FRA also conducted public outreach following publication of the Tier 1 Final EIS and provided an opportunity for feedback to be submitted between the release of the Tier 1 Final EIS and the ROD (more than a 90-day period). The FRA considered this feedback, as well as comments received on the Tier 1 Draft EIS, in its decision on the Selected Alternative.
Freight railroads are major users of the corridor and are critical to the economic vitality and competitiveness of the Northeast. While NEC FUTURE does not provide a freight plan, the FRA coordinated with freight railroads to identify their future growth projections and incorporated these projections and related freight projects into the FRA’s analysis for NEC FUTURE. The Selected Alternative ensures that additional passenger rail service can coexist with the growth of freight rail service on the NEC, and, where possible, provides increased access to the NEC for freight operations. Moreover, new segments, new tracks, and chokepoint relief projects defined as part of the infrastructure elements of the Selected Alternative could reduce conflicts between locations where the freight rail network and the passenger rail network share facilities.
The information posted on this website includes hypertext links or pointers to information created and maintained by other public and/or private organizations. The FRA provides these links and pointers solely for information and convenience. When users select a link to an outside website, they are leaving the NEC FUTURE website and are subject to the privacy and security policies of the owners/sponsors of the outside website. The FRA does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information contained on a linked website, or endorse the organizations sponsoring linked websites, the views they express, or the products/services they offer. The FRA cannot authorize the use of copyrighted materials contained in linked websites and is not responsible for transmissions users receive from linked websites.