Frequently Asked Questions
The following are questions our team has identified as those most frequently asked about the Washington, D.C. to Richmond, VA Southeast High Speed Rail project. This list will be updated from time to time as the project progresses to include new questions that come up. If you do not see an answer to your question, please Contact Us.
High speed rail is intercity passenger rail service that is time-competitive with air and automobiles on a door-to-door basis for trips in the approximate range of 100 to 500 miles. This is a market-based, not a speed-based definition: it recognizes that the opportunities and requirements for high speed rail differ markedly among different pairs of cities. For the Washington, D.C. to Richmond, VA Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor, trains will travel at a maximum speed of 90 mph in some areas.
Across the country, the U.S. Department of Transportation has designated 10 high speed rail corridors in addition to the Northeast Corridor. The Washington, D.C. to Richmond project is the critical link connecting two high speed rail corridors on the East Coast, which are:
- Washington, D.C. – Richmond, VA – Charlotte, NC: In 1992 the U.S. Department of Transportation designated the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor connecting Charlotte, NC, Richmond, VA, and Washington, D.C. This corridor designation has been extended south to Northern FL through subsequent actions of the Department. (Visit www.sehsr.org)
- Boston – New York – Washington, DC: The Northeast Corridor is the only high speed rail service at present in the U.S. It is also the busiest passenger rail line in the U.S. by ridership and service frequency. Amtrak operates a 150 mph train service known as “Acela” in this corridor.
The project consists of environmental reviews and preliminary engineering on a series of improvements to the existing rail corridor between Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA, with the goal of determining the Preferred Alternative to increase rail capacity and speed within the corridor. The project is being conducted through the mechanism of an Environmental Impact Statement to satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. The Washington to Richmond segment will provide the critical link between the Northeast Corridor and the rest of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor.
The 2002 Tier I EIS established the overall purpose for the SEHSR program, which, as stated in the Tier I EIS, is to provide a competitive transportation choice to travelers within the Washington, D.C. to Richmond, Raleigh, and Charlotte travel corridor. The current DC2RVA project carries forward the purpose of the SEHSR Tier I EIS within the Washington, D.C. to Richmond segment of the larger SEHSR corridor by identifying the infrastructure improvements necessary to provide a competitive transportation choice for current and future conditions.
The project is expected to provide multiple benefits to the traveling public and the Commonwealth of Virginia, including:
- Providing an efficient and reliable multimodal rail corridor between Washington, D.C. and Richmond and beyond
- Increasing the capacity of the multimodal rail system between Washington, D.C. and Richmond
- Improving the frequency, reliability, and travel time of passenger rail operations in Virginia and beyond, and providing a competitive alternative to highway and air travel
- Accommodating VRE commuter rail service operations
- Accommodating the movement of freight by rail through the corridor, including to and from Virginia’s ports
- Improving modal connectivity with other public transportation systems within the corridor to further expand travel options for passengers within Virginia and beyond
- Improving multimodal rail operations safety in the corridor
- Improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by diverting passenger trips by automobile and movement of freight by trucks to more environmentally sustainable rail transportation
Implementing higher speed passenger rail service would also encourage economic development in the Commonwealth and along the northeast and southeast travel corridors by expanding competitive travel options in the corridor for business and leisure travelers. Additionally, because the Project corridor is a multimodal corridor shared with freight, passenger and commuter service, the proposed improvements would also enhance the efficiency of freight rail movements within the corridor. Improvements to freight rail operations in the corridor would encourage economic development by increasing freight traffic through Virginia’s ports, supporting rail-dependent industries, and present an opportunity for greater diversion of freight transport from congested highways to rail.
A two-tiered environmental process is often used on large projects before implementing the proposed action. In such cases, the Tier I evaluation is focused on helping to make the large-scale decisions, such as what type of new service is needed and which general corridor would be best for the new service. Then, more detailed Tier II evaluation(s) are conducted that evaluate the specific actions and improvements required to support the Tier I findings. The Tier II decisions are supported by more detailed engineering and cost estimating, and concludes with a Record of Decision (ROD) that will establish the DC2RVA corridor eligible for federal funds and allow permitting, final design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction to proceed.
This DC2RVA Project is the second step in a two-tiered federal environmental review process. The Preferred Alternative identified in the ROD at the conclusion of the Tier I study in 2002 called for rail improvements that generate incremental passenger service benefits but minimize impacts by using existing rail infrastructure and railroad right of way. While the Tier I study established the general corridor for improved service, the actual route is designed as part of this Tier II process. These Tier II activities include a more rigorous environmental study of potential alternatives, as required by NEPA.
DRPT is conducting a Tier II Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, which analyzes potential impacts of Project alternatives on human and natural resources. The results of these analyses are documented in the Draft EIS, along with DRPT’s recommended Preferred Alternative. The Draft EIS approval and release by Federal Railroad Administration was accompanied by a formal public comment period in late 2017. Public hearings during the comment period provided further opportunity for the public to learn about the project and comment on the record.
The Final EIS is being completed by DRPT and FRA. It will describe the recommended Preferred Alternative that was approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The Final EIS will also document and address the public comments received during the Draft EIS comment period, as well as the basis for the selection of the Preferred Alternative.
Upon completion of the Final EIS, the FRA will finalize the environmental process by issuing a Record of Decision (ROD). This report will document the federal government’s decisions related to the Project, including the Preferred Alternative
After FRA issues the ROD, the Project will be implemented in phases subject to the availability of funding. A Service Development Plan prepared by DRPT will describe how the Project could be implemented as funding becomes available. Final design and construction will not begin until funding is available. Decisions on permit requirements, impact mitigation, acquisition of additional right-of-way (if any), and other details will be determined during final design and construction.
The Washington, D.C. to Richmond segment of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor is part of a larger nationwide higher speed intercity passenger rail plan identified by the U.S. Department of Transportation. This project expands upon a previous study that recommended passenger rail improvements in the Washington, D.C. to Charlotte, NC Corridor. This project also provides the critical link between the Northeast High Speed Rail Corridor and the SEHSR Corridor.
Current conditions experienced in the Project corridor support the Tier I EIS purpose and need and are the foundation for the Project today. These conditions include:
- Population Growth. Population in the corridor and adjacent urban regions continues to grow, increasing demand for reliable and safe travel options for passengers. In addition to overall population growth, changing demographics in the corridor and adjacent urban regions are increasing the demand for passenger rail service.
- Freight Growth. Demand for freight movement through and within the corridor is growing as economic activity and population increase. Ongoing expansion of Virginia’s deep water ports, rail-dependent industries, and intermodal facilities further increases the need for efficient shipment of freight.
- Congestion in the I-95 Corridor. The I-95 corridor between Washington, D.C. and Richmond remains one of the most congested corridors in Virginia, despite ongoing and planned improvements. As a result, trip times by highway vehicles are not reliable.
- Air Travel Congestion. Travel by air is increasingly at capacity, resulting in frequent delays and causing commercial carriers to reduce flights and increase fares, which limits the transportation options between Washington, D.C. and the entire southeast, including lost productivity for travelers and excessive fuel consumption.
- Capacity in the Corridor. The shared freight and passenger rail corridor between Washington, D.C. and Richmond is nearing capacity and requires improvements to effectively and efficiently meet existing and future demands for passenger service, commuter passenger service, and freight service.
- Providing Options for Reliable and Convenient Movement of Goods and People. The transportation network must provide options for the reliable and convenient movement of goods and people for the Commonwealth and the southeast region’s economy to remain strong and grow.
- Air Quality. There is a need to reduce growth of transportation-related mobile source emissions and the resultant impacts to air quality. Travel or freight movement by train provides a safe and efficient travel mode, and it uses less energy and produces fewer emissions per passenger or ton of freight moved per mile.
The key agencies and stakeholders are:
- Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) – Lead Federal Agency
- Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) –Lead Agency
- Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)
- CSX Transportation
- Virginia Railway Express (VRE)
The following agencies agreed to be cooperating agencies for the DC2RVA project:
- Federal Highway Administration
- Federal Transit Administration
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- U.S. Coast Guard
- U.S. Department of Interior
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Virginia Department of Transportation
- increase rail capacity parallel to I-95 from Richmond to Washington, one of the most unreliable and heavily congested interstate travel corridors in the United States with limited roadway expansion capacity;
- provide more frequent and reliable passenger trains as a viable and safe transportation alternative for generations of Virginians to come; and
- help resolve railroad bottlenecks (passenger, commuter, and freight), as well ascongestion and safety concerns, while accommodating increased rail volume from the Port of Virginia; and;
- connect the existing Northeast passenger rail network with the developing Southeast passenger rail network.
Rail improvements designed as part of DC2RVA will benefit passenger and freight rail. The track infrastructure will be designed for use by passenger and freight service along this shared-use corridor.
It is well-known that the I-95 corridor between Richmond and Washington, D.C. is heavily congested with vehicles. One of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) tasks is a ridership and revenue study, which will survey existing travelers in the corridor from all modes – rail, highway and airlines - and project future ridership. Earlier studies indicated that a mix of business and leisure travelers would use the rail service.
Richmond to Raleigh, NC SEHSR: This segment of the SEHSR Corridor is currently in the final stages of environmental review. The Richmond, VA, to Raleigh, NC segment’s Tier II Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be complete with the issuance of a Record of Decision (ROD) in 2015 from FRA. For more information on this project, visit www.sehsr.org.
Richmond to Hampton Roads SEHSR: In 2012, a spur from the SEHSR, the Richmond to Hampton Roads Passenger Rail Project was approved for design and construction through a ROD from FRA. The project will provide increased frequency and higher speed passenger rail service at a maximum achievable speed of 79 mph along the Peninsula/CSX route serving Richmond Main Street Station, Williamsburg Station, and Newport News Station. It also includes new higher speed passenger service (maximum achievable speed of 90 mph) along the Southside/Norfolk Southern route serving Richmond and Petersburg area stations and new stations at Bowers Hill and Norfolk.
Amtrak Service to Norfolk: DRPT worked with Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Amtrak to extend Richmond’s Amtrak Virginia regional service to Norfolk in 2012, providing residents in and around Norfolk with a one-seat ride from Norfolk to as far north as Boston. Today, this service is operating between Norfolk, VA and Richmond, VA and beyond. The improvements planned in the Richmond to Hampton Roads SEHSR ROD will increase frequency and provide higher speed passenger rail service along this segment.
The DC2RVA Project is the northernmost segment of the Southeast High Speed Rail (SEHSR) corridor, which is part of a larger nationwide higher speed intercity passenger rail plan identified by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The SEHSR corridor was one of the five originally designated high speed rail corridors identified by FRA in 1991, and is currently planned to extend from Washington, D.C. to Jacksonville, FL.
This DC2RVA Project expands upon a previous study, a Tier I EIS, that recommended passenger rail improvements in the Washington, D.C. to Charlotte, NC portion of the SEHSR corridor. That study established the SEHSR program purpose and selected preferred rail corridors, and provided a programmatic-level environmental analysis. It also selected an incremental approach to develop the SEHSR program and subsequently the SEHSR corridor was separated into segments (Washington, D.C. to Richmond, Richmond to Raleigh, and Raleigh to Charlotte) for further detailed (Tier II) studies. The Washington to Richmond segment will provide the critical gateway linking the Northeast Corridor and the rest of the SEHSR corridor.
DRPT is the project sponsor and leads the EIS process as well as overall project management. FRA serves as the lead federal agency on the project.
Yes, as part of the socio-economic analysis conducted for each of the project alternatives, an estimate of the number of temporary construction-related jobs that will be generated and the number of permanent jobs associated with the additional train service will be developed.
A parallel greenway (pedestrian / bicycle trail) is not part of the DC2RVA project at this time. Such a greenway is not supported by the SEHSR Program’s Purpose and Need as defined in the Tier I EIS, because it does not provide a competitive choice for intercity travel in the corridor, nor does it benefit capacity or speed of train movements within the corridor. Also, the CSX right-of-way is not of sufficient width to support a greenway, nor does CSX allow recreational use of its rights-of-way. Development of higher speed rail service along the existing rail corridor would not preclude a future greenway outside the CSX right-of-way, however, should the Commonwealth decide at some point to pursue one.
In the Draft EIS, all cultural resources within the project's Area of Potential Effect (APE) were identified and evaluated in accordance with Section 106 of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation regulations. Once the APE was identified each cultural resources was evaluated to determine whether it would have no effect, no adverse effect, or an adverse effect.
Under Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act all public or privately owned historic sites and archaeological sites listed on or eligible for inclusion on the NRHP were identified and evaluated. All protected resources evaluated were found along the rail corridor, including the historic rail line itself.
Section 106 is a regulation by the National Historic Preservation Act and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Along the DC2RVA project corridor there were 158 cultural resources that were eligible for, or listed on, the National Register of Historic Places. Each resource was identified and evaluated according to this regulation.
Detailed cost estimate information is included in Appendix K of the Draft EIS.
- Build Alternatives that require the most new rail and/or roadway infrastructure and/or those that cover greater lengths are the most expensive to construct.
- The time it takes to travel between DC and Richmond is dependent on the number and location of station stops as well as the track design.
- Travel time, ridership, and on-time performance vary by Build Alternative within the Richmond station options; the quickest travel time does not necessarily equate to the same Build Alternative that has the most ridership or best on-time performance.
Part of the alternatives evaluation process described in the Draft EIS includes a review of intercity passenger train and freight train on-time performance. Passenger train on-time performance for each alternative is compared to existing operations, with a goal of achieving a 90% on-time performance (or better) for all intercity passenger trains while accommodating freight operations.
This project is funded through a cooperative agreement between DRPT and FRA for the completion of preliminary engineering and Tier II environmental review for the corridor between Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA. There are several options available for funding beyond the scope of this study and the preliminary engineering, including funds from federal, state and local sources. These will be considered in more detail as more reliable cost estimates become available.
Future funding is beyond anyone’s ability to predict. Even in the absence of a known funding source, it is important to complete the federal planning process in order to qualify for future federal funds, if and when they are available. This Tier II EIS is a key element to the federal planning process, and a requirement for federal funding. DRPT has a successful track record of partnering with Amtrak, CSX, FRA, VRE, and others to get projects funded and built using a mix of funding sources. It may be necessary to build the project in an incremental fashion as funding becomes available.
This is yet to be determined. Improvements will likely be funded through a combination of federal and state sources and may also include private sector funding.
Maintenance and operational costs will be addressed as a framework is established to design, build, operate, and maintain the infrastructure improvements and associated trains (known as rolling stock). DRPT will address this in cooperation with host railroad CSX, Amtrak and VRE.
Tracks, Trains, and Stations
DRPT is currently proposing to add 9 daily round- trip passenger trains to the corridor. Five of these new trains would provide regional service from Norfolk and Newport News through Richmond to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. Four of these new trains would provide interstate service from North Carolina through Virginia and continuing on to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. From Washington D.C., all of these new trains would continue on to Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. The plan is to incorporate this service into Amtrak’s regional and long distance intercity passenger rail network.
At-grade crossings, including both public and private crossings. A proposed crossing improvement was recommended at each at-grade crossing for each Build Alternative. Six types of crossing treatments were considered at each at-grade crossing:
- Grade Separation. By definition, a highway- rail crossing that occurs at two different vertical levels. Per FHWA, “the decision to grade separate at [an existing] highway-rail crossing is primarily a matter of economics” as a long-term investment. Benefits of grade- separated crossings (compared to at-grade crossings) include reduction in collisions, vehicle delay, and maintenance costs.
- Four-Quadrant Gates. A system of gates (entrance and exit gates on all roadway approaches) designed to provide full closure of the crossing when a train is approaching or occupying the crossing, thus eliminating the opportunity for vehicles to navigate around a single lowered gate. Design can include detection inside the gates to ensure that vehicles do not get “trapped” inside lowered gates.
- Median Treatment. A system of physical improvements designed to impede the movement of vehicles into the opposing traffic lane and around the single lowered gate (two-quadrant gate). Treatments include barrier wall systems, wide raised medians, and mountable raised curb systems with vertical median separators.
- Closure. Per FHWA, “closure of [an existing at-grade] crossing to highway traffic should always be considered as an alternative.” Benefits include reduction in collisions, vehicle delay, and rail maintenance costs.
- Locking Gate (private crossings only). This term refers to a barrier gate that is a moveable gate that is in engaged (i.e., closed) and can open on demand. For the DC2RVA project, locking gates are only applicable to private crossings and must be tied into the track circuitry. The locking gate could be manual (requiring property owners to exit their vehicle to manually interact with the gate) or more automated (such as key card access to open and close the gate), the details of which will be determined during final design.
- No Action. Considered at crossings where the existing crossing treatment is sufficient to accommodate the DC2RVA project.
Grade-separated crossings, including rail over public roadways, private roadways, or waterways, and public or private roadways over rail. In all locations for all Build Alternatives, the existing structure can either accommodate the proposed improvements, or will be widened (either the existing structure or a parallel structure).
New crossings. Virginia state code restricts the creation of new at-grade crossings; this means that any new crossings of existing roadways due to the DC2RVA project should be grade-separated, with potential roadway realignment and/or closure.
The specific station stops will be determined once the preferred alternative is chosen. DRPT is taking a systematic and measured approach to determine station locations and stops. Public comments and feedback are very important to DRPT, and we encourage you to provide your feedback at any time using our online comment form.
Stations served by higher speed rail will be identified and evaluated during the alternatives development and screening process, and during the preparation of the draft EIS. Station needs will be identified in accordance with FRA and Amtrak guidance, ridership surveys, operations and revenue modeling, and public input. When a preferred alternative is developed, a Service Development Plan will be prepared that specifies the service to be provided at each station. Limited station stops are a hallmark of high speed rail service, which picks up travel time savings by avoiding station dwell times.
New passenger rail service will provide another transportation option to the traveling public to avoid traffic congestion on I-95 between Washington, DC and Richmond, VA. The construction and operation of the project would likely have a positive economic impact on cities, towns and counties along the corridor. The improved rail infrastructure would make the Commonwealth more competitive, thereby retaining existing businesses and attracting new business ventures to the region. Estimates of construction employment, as well as permanent employment, attracted to the corridor by the advent of higher speed rail service will be prepared as part of the project. Because the lines would carry both passengers and freight, new and/or improved freight access and improved reliability could bring goods to market faster.
Preliminary design will address FRA, Amtrak, CSX, VDOT, and other federal and state safety standards. With guidance from these stakeholders and FRA approval, DRPT has developed a Basis of Design, which specifies how the infrastructure will be designed to allow for the safe operation of the new 90 mph MAS service. The final design and construction will comply with all applicable safety standards, including positive train control.
Positive train control is a new system being designed to automatically stop a train before certain types of accidents occur. Specifically, positive train control, as mandated by Congress in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), is being designed to prevent train-to-train collisions; derailments caused by excessive speed; unauthorized incursions by trains onto sections of track where maintenance activities are taking place; and movement of a train through a track switch left in the wrong position.
The plan is to incorporate this service into Amtrak’s regional and long distance network. Amtrak is the provider of intercity passenger rail service for the project corridor. The project team is also working with CSX, VDOT, VRE, and FRA so that the proposed solution is informed by and supports the needs of these key stakeholders in the corridor. Any new routes Amtrak offers would have to be coordinated with DRPT, VRE and CSX to prevent conflicts with commuter and freight trains also using the system, and be in accordance with federal laws.
No. Electric service on the corridor was evaluated in the Tier I EIS and subsequent studies, and found not to be feasible for this corridor that is shared with freight trains.
The Maglev system was considered as an option in the Tier I EIS. This option was eliminated because of the high cost of implementation and lack of demand for this type of high speed rail in the SEHSR corridor. Maglev trains in the corridor could be reconsidered for implementation as a separate environmental study.
In general, the DC2RA Project proposes to increase capacity by adding one additional main track – in most areas, a new third track in addition to existing two tracks. The determination of the location of the new track on the east or west of existing trackage varies by location based on physical constraints and minimization of impacts.
The proposed Build Alternatives vary within the City of Fredericksburg and the Town of Ashland, where alignments outside of the existing right- of-way were considered (i.e., bypass alignments around the downtown areas); the typical section of all new bypass alignments considered a total of two tracks.
During the Scoping Phase (September – December 2015), more than 700 people attended the four DC2RVA scoping meetings and the online meeting. DRPT shared the proposed scope of work at the meetings and asked for the public’s input. As a result, more than 1,600 comments were received. These comments helped shape the breadth of alternatives that DRPT is evaluating and the process to screen alternatives. Common themes from the comments included:
- Support for improved intercity passenger service.
- A desire for speeds higher than the project’s proposed speeds.
- Concerns about cost and impacts.
- Interest in a greenway (pedestrian / bike trail) along the corridor.
- Support for improved transportation connectivity within the Commonwealth.
In addition to these topics, DRPT received many comments regarding site-specific issues and suggestions. You can review a summary of comments received and how DRPT will apply this input in the Scoping Summary Report.
Since November 2014, the DRPT has:
- Reviewed all scoping comments and modified existing conditions data and base mapping based on information provided in comments.
- Developed the project Purpose & Need Statement.
- Developed Basis of Design (engineering criteria document), describing the design standards and requirements for new track, roadways, station platforms, and other improvements.
- Identified preliminary alternatives.
- Initiated the first stage of the alternative screening process, which evaluates various rail alignments against direct impacts on key environmental resources outside of the existing CSX right-of-way.
Final EIS (2019) Based on agency and public comments on the Draft EIS, DRPT will prepare a Final EIS, effectively reporting the basis for the selection of a Preferred Alternative and a listing of environmental commitments to mitigate unavoidable impacts. The Final EIS is distributed to federal, state, and local entities including the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB). Copies of the Final EIS will be available online and also filed with regional libraries for public viewing.
Record of Decision (2019) It is DRPT's intention that the Record of Decision (ROD) will be simultaneously released with the Final EIS. The ROD identifies the Preferred Alternative, presents the basis for the decision, includes descriptions of the alternatives considered, and commits to measures to mitigate unavoidable environmental impacts. The ROD is the first step in the EIS process, signifying approval of the proposed action. DRPT will work with FRA to issue a ROD so that the Project may proceed to the next step, which is Final Engineering and Design.
Throughout project development, final design, and construction, DRPT will coordinate with the appropriate regulatory agencies to obtain the necessary permits. The following is a list of permits that may be required for this project. Final determination of permit applicability lies with the regulatory agencies.
The existing rail line cannot support the passenger rail line envisioned for the future. More passenger trains at higher speeds combined with frequent freight service requires upgrades to tracks and stations.
Multiple routes were evaluated in the Tier I EIS but a route within the I-95 highway corridor was dismissed from further study due to potential impacts to environmental and cultural resources, impacts to existing development, and impacts associated with multiple crossings of I-95. Rail design standards restrict the allowable curvature of the rail alignment, which is inconsistent and in many cases incompatible with roadway design.
DRPT recognizes the many potential impacts to historic and natural resources that would be impacted in order to straighten numerous curves throughout the existing corridor. Instead of solely focusing on ways to improve the route of intercity passenger trains in the corridor, DRPT is also examining ways to improve reliability and increase the frequency of trains. This will improve overall efficiency and make the service more dependable.
The Build Alternatives are primarily based on adding an additional main line track and/or shifting existing rail alignments to gain additional capacity and reduced trip time, as well as consideration of new track alignment to minimize potential impacts. The Build Alternatives were developed to generally consider:
Upgrades to existing track and signal systems to achieve higher operating speeds, including curve realignments, higher-speed crossovers between tracks, passing sidings, and at-grade crossing improvements.
Developing potential rail alignments was an iterative process. DRPT relied on previous studies and public scoping comment as the starting point for developing potential rail alignments. Rail alignment modifications were made to avoid or minimize potential adverse effects on environmental resources and existing infrastructure, and to minimize the need for additional new infrastructure, while preserving the ability of that alignment to meet the Project’s Purpose and Need. The final screening evaluation – to determine the Build Alternatives to be carried forward for evaluation in the Draft EIS – focused on each rail alignment’s ability to reduce trip times based on increased track design speed and increase the reliability of rail operations based upon added capacity as defined by the Purpose and Need.
Addition of main track along most of the corridor, and additional controlled sidings, crossovers, yard bypasses and leads, and other improvements at certain locations.
Station and platform improvements for Amtrak stations and rail alignments accommodating additional and/or extended VRE platforms and/or other improvements.
For evaluation in the Tier II Draft EIS, DRPT combined and categorized the Build Alternatives into six areas along the corridor. The Build Alternatives were developed separately, specific to the existing conditions, constraints, and/or needs of each of the six areas, and will be linked to form a single corridor Preferred Alternative.
- Area 1: Arlington. A 1-mile section that includes Long Bridge approach alignments.
- Area 2: Northern Virginia. A 47-mile section that includes additional track within existing right-of-way.
- Area 3: Fredericksburg. A 14-mile section that inclues alignments through or around the city.
- Area 4: Central Virginia. A 29-mile section that includes additional track primarily within existing right-of-way.
- Area 5: Ashland. A 10-mile section including alignments through or around the town.
- Area 6: Richmond. A 23-mile section including different station locations and routing options on separate alignments
The No Build Alternative defines the future (2025) infrastructure and service levels that will result from planned investments in the Washington, D.C. to Richmond rail corridor, independent of the improvements planned by the DC2RVA project. The No Build Alternative provides a basis for comparing and contrasting the potential impacts of different DC2RVA Build Alternatives.
Information about planned physical improvements and rail service additions in the corridor was gathered from fiscally-constrained Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) planning documents, Commonwealth multi- year improvement programs, and from transit agency planning documents. If a project was under construction, fully-funded, or was the focus of advanced collaborative planning (evidenced by partial funding, board-level commitments, or interagency agreements), it was assumed to be complete by 2025 for the purposes of this evaluation.
Although it does not meet the Project Purpose and Need and the No Build was dismissed at the Tier 1 level, it is included to serve as a basis for comparison and was fully considered by DRPT and FRA.
It is important to note that a no-build alternative was also analyzed in this Draft EIS, and serves as a baseline for which to compare the effects and impacts of the build alternatives. Although the No Build Alternative was fully evaluated and dismissed by FRA in the 2002 SEHSR Tier I ROD, DRPT reevaluated this conclusion, and found that No Build Alternative would not meet the purpose and need for the project and would not provide a viable transportation option for the Commonwealth. Therefore, DRPT agrees with the Tier I conclusion, is not recommending the No Build Alternative.
Chapter 2 of this Draft EIS contains a detailed description of the alternatives in each of the six geographic areas making up the 123-mile DC2RVA corridor. Chapter 4 describes the detailed impacts by resource for each of the alternatives. Chapter 6 documents DRPT’s outreach and communications undertaken with the public, stakeholders, and elected officials in the DC2RVA corridor.
The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is identifying its preferred alternative for each area of the Washington, D.C. to Richmond Southeast High Speed Rail (DC2RVA) corridor as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process in order to provide the public with a clear understanding of DRPT’s recommendations at this project milestone. While DRPT anticipates that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will endorse the recommendations presented here, this DRPT- recommended alternative is non-binding, and the preferred alternative ultimately presented in the Final EIS is subject to the discretion of FRA.
DRPT invites the public, elected officials, and agencies to provide comments on the Draft EIS and DRPT’s preferred alternative. After reviewing all of the comments received on the Draft EIS and DRPT’s preferred alternative, DRPT will modify or revise its decision on a preferred alternative, if appropriate. In addition, DRPT will provide the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) with a full summary of the comments received along with DRPT’s recommendation on a preferred alternative. DRPT anticipates that the CTB will formally identify the Commonwealth of Virginia’s preferred alternative. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will consider both the Draft EIS, the Final EIS, and the Commonwealth’s preferred alternative and will then issue a ROD identifying the final selected alternative.
DRPT fully considered the Project’s Purpose and Need and all of the information, analysis contained in this Draft EIS in determining its preferred alternative. For each alternative, it evaluated impacts to the natural and human environment and assessed information on Amtrak ridership, rail operations, cost, and constructability for each alternative. It was also informed by extensive outreach and communications undertaken with the public, stakeholders, and elected officials in the DC2RVA corridor, plus prior corridor studies, including the 2002 Southeast High Speed Rail (SEHSR) Tier I EIS and Record of Decision (ROD).
The Draft EIS evaluated project alternatives for their respective ability to meet the Project’s Purpose and Need. Project alternatives were compared to one another based on a number of factors, including potential effects on environmental resources, project cost, and rail operations advantages. Environmental resources are the elements of the human environment, including both natural and built (man-made) resources. Before making comparisons, the Draft EIS inventoried existing conditions of environmental resources within the Project area. The potential impacts presented in the Draft EIS are based on the conceptual engineering designs developed by DRPT for the Build Alternatives.
The study area evaluated in the Draft EIS encompasses the anticipated area of impacts that could be caused by Project construction and/or future Project operations,. The study area varies in size depending on the environmental resource. For example, the study areas for the human environment, noise, and air quality are larger than the natural environment study areas. The larger study areas are defined by regions of influence in which a resource may potentially have noticeable Project-related impacts such as changes in regional transportation patterns. Regions of influence for human environmental resources account for factors such as community sizes, geographical and political boundaries, and census boundaries. Natural resources are generally more affected by direct encroachments or physical impacts of the built improvements such as loss of wetlands and loss of sensitive habitats.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is the lead federal agency for this study and will be making the final decision. It is the DRPT’s responsibility to carry out the EIS based on federal rules. Preparing the Draft EIS, providing a Preferred Alternative to FRA, incorporating public comments, and other steps are completed by DRPT in close coordination with FRA, the agency that issues the final Record of Decision at the end of the EIS process.
Complete build-out of the corridor and full implementation is dependent on future state and federal funding and the ability to achieve passenger rail benefits. At the conclusion of the DC2RVA project, the goal is to have successfully completed the NEPA process to meet federal requirements and qualify for federal funding. The implementation process that follows NEPA and preliminary design can be lengthy, and includes applying for construction permits, equipment selection and manufacturing, ordering materials, and actual construction/rehabilitation of the rail corridor that allows higher speed trains to operate.
DRPT and FRA have adopted an incremental approach to develop new service and achieve passenger rail benefits, and are working with CSX to identify key opportunities to add additional capacity and implement improved service in the corridor as quickly as practicable. For planning purposes, DRPT is anticipating the new service could be in operation by 2025.
The time it takes to travel between D.C. and Richmond will be studied and determined as part of this project and is dependent on the number and location of station stops as well as the final track design. As with any speed and efficiency project, system improvements could reduce the trip’s end-to-end travel times. Specific travel time savings will be determined in the later stages of alternatives development. Reliability and increased frequency are the key overarching benefits of the project. We anticipate that the completed project will make the service much more dependable and competitive with other modes of intercity travel.
The proposed maximum authorized speed for the corridor is 90 mph. The DC2RVA Project is categorized as an “emerging” service corridor, per the FRA. Within the DC2RVA Project corridor, there are limiting speeds within certain segments where the trains may not be able to operate at this maximum operating speed for the full length between station stops, due to civil speed restriction purposes, track curvature, geometrical reasons and/ or station proximity.
The DC2RVA Service Development Plan will estimate ticket prices, but final ticket prices will not be established until the system is constructed and ready for operation. Amtrak will ultimately set the ticket prices.
DRPT has identified eight new intercity passenger train round trips to be added to the following locations:
· Four new round trips to North Carolina
· Three additional round trips to Norfolk
· One additional round trip to Newport News
In addition, VRE is anticipated to add commuter trains along the northern portion of the corridor, and CSX is anticipated to add freight trains along the entire corridor. Although the project will consider the impacts of these additional trains, they are not part of this project.
DC2RVA’s station analysis will evaluate whether adequate parking is available or could be developed for station alternatives. We understand the relationship between ridership and parking. However, design details for parking are a local decision.
The specific station stops and levels of service will be determined once the Preferred Alternative is chosen. DRPT is taking a systematic and measured approach to determine station locations and stops. Station needs will be identified in accordance with FRA and Amtrak guidance, ridership surveys, operations and revenue modeling, and public input. When a Preferred Alternative is developed, a Service Development Plan will be prepared that specifies the service and amenities to be provided at each station.
Following scoping, the Project began to identify and evaluate alternative alignment concepts. While some of these alternative alignment concepts included bypasses and greenfield alignments, DRPT’s recommended Preferred Alternative remains largely within existing railroad right-of-way. When a Preferred Alternative is selected in the Final EIS, the need to acquire additional right-of-way will be determined. Wherever possible, the Project will be designed to stay within the existing right-of-way.
DC2RVA’s design recommends new rail/road crossings be grade-separated, typically by re-constructing the road over rail in most instances. Existing at-grade rail/road crossings are analyzed for impacts to safety and traffic flows, and if warranted, a new overpass may be recommended. Final determinations on road crossings will not be finalized until the project is close to construction.
During peak travel times, it can take three hours to travel the 50 miles between Washington, D.C. and Fredericksburg. Providing more travel options means fewer people have to be on the road due to no other choice, and those who do need to be on the road may find the highway less congested.
The project will evaluate potential travel time savings for each alternative under review. Results will be available as part of the Tier II Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Current Amtrak service provides same-seat service from stations in Virginia to Boston but stop to change engines in Washington, D.C., because the corridor north of Washington uses electric engines while non-electric engines are required for service to the south. DC2RVA will evaluate this for higher speed service through a Service Development Plan. Outside the scope of this study, dual-mode locomotives are being considered to address this issue. If implemented, dual-mode locomotive-hauled trains would make it possible to not only stay on the same train for points north, but also save travel time by not having to change.
Amtrak operates over 20 trains daily in Virginia, serving over a million riders annually. More information on these routes and their specific ridership can be found here.
DRPT is currently considering adding 9 daily round-trip passenger trains to the corridor. Four of these new trains would provide interstate service from North Carolina through Virginia and continuing on to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. Five of these new trains would provide regional service from Norfolk and Newport News through Richmond to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. From Washington D.C., all of these new trains would continue on to Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. The plan is to incorporate this service into Amtrak’s regional and long distance intercity passenger rail network.
Proposed service plans will be incorporated as part of Amtrak’s regional and long distance network. Amtrak is the provider of intercity passenger rail service for the project corridor. The project team is also working with CSX, VDOT, VRE, and FRA so that the proposed solution is informed by and supports the needs of these rail operators in the corridor. Any new routes Amtrak offers would have to be coordinated with DRPT, VRE and CSX to prevent conflicts with commuter and freight trains also using the system, and be in accordance with federal laws.
The existing railroad corridor is owned and operated by CSX. The Project is being designed for interoperability for both freight and passenger trains on all tracks. This allows access to existing stations and infrastructure, allows the Project to be implemented more economically, and minimizes impacts to the environment. This was the recommendation of the Tier I EIS. Building a new rail system dedicated only to passenger trains would cost more, cause more environmental impacts, and require extensive property acquisition.
The project is designed to accommodate future growth of freight rail, including from the Port of Virginia. The global logistics industry has a direct economic output of $11.1 billion and supports an additional $9.3 billion in economic activity in Virginia. In 2015, The Port of Virginia moved 33% of its cargo via rail. As freight growth continues with the expanded Panama Canal, rail will become increasingly important.
Currently Amtrak service from Norfolk and from the Virginia Peninsula connects to the DC2RVA project area. Improvements between Washington, D.C. and Richmond will facilitate more reliable service from Hampton Roads to destinations on the Northeast Corridor.
The Hampton Roads Passenger Rail Project was approved by the FRA in 2012. This Tier I EIS determined an alignment for future higher speed rail (three round trip trains per day with maximum authorized speed of 90 mph) between Richmond and Norfolk. The project also recommended increased frequency and higher speed passenger rail service at a maximum achievable speed of 79 mph along the Peninsula/CSX route serving Richmond, Williamsburg, and Newport News. DRPT intends to conduct a Tier II Richmond to Hampton Roads Passenger Rail Study after the FRA reaches a Record of Decision (ROD) for DC2RVA.
DRPT has been actively working since the start of the Project in 2014 to engage the public and have meaningful exchanges with corridor communities regarding this Project. DRPT hosted multiple rounds of public meetings in all sections of the corridor: four meetings in November 2014 to discuss Project scoping, three meetings in June 2015 to discuss the range of Project alternatives, three meetings in December 2015 to solicit public input on the alternatives screening process and results, and five public hearings in October 2017 for public comment on the Draft EIS. In addition, DRPT participated in public meetings in Ashland and Fredericksburg to discuss Project alternatives. DRPT also convened the Town of Ashland/Hanover County Community Advisory Committee, which had five meetings in summer of 2017 that were all open to the public. DRPT has received and responded to public comments and questions throughout the process, which help to shape the EIS documents and design.
In addition to hosting public meetings, DRPT has mailed letters to over 10,000 property owners to alert them of DC2RVA field investigations in their area. The letters contain project information, ask for feedback, and point recipients to a property owner webpage on this site. DRPT used locality data to obtain addresses, and alerted local officials in advance of property owner letter mailings. DRPT has visited dozens of civic groups, task forces, and governmental organizations to inform them of Project status and to gather input. Additionally, DRPT is always accepting comments via the Contact Us page on this website, where anyone can comment, submit questions, or join the mailing list. All comments become part of the Project’s permanent record, and inform the process. Comments received during the 60-day Draft EIS comment period Sept 8th 2017 to Nov. 7th 2017 will be summarized and addressed in the Final EIS. Public input will inform additional analysis conducted between the Draft EIS and the Final EIS, and ultimately the Preferred Alternative in FRA’s Record of Decision (ROD), which marks the end of the EIS process.
DRPT is always accepting comments via the Contact Us page on this website, where anyone can comment, submit questions, or join the mailing list. All comments become part of the Project’s permanent record. DRPT provides a response to substantive comments on this website, but does not provide an individual response to each commenter.
DRPT uses public input to help inform its understanding of the corridor, stakeholder sentiment involving various alternatives, and the impacts various alternatives could have within corridor communities. Public input has been sought and entered into the Project record continuously via this website and the Project e-mail address. This will continue throughout the life of the Project. Comments received during the 60-day Draft EIS formal public comment period will be summarized and addressed in the Final EIS. Public input will shape additional analysis conducted between the Draft EIS and the Final EIS, and ultimately the Preferred Alternative in FRA’s Record of Decision (ROD), which marks the end of the EIS process.
In addition, DRPT has hosted in-person meetings corresponding with Project milestones. Four rounds of public meetings have been held at various locations along the corridor thus far: Project scoping (four meetings in November 2014), the range of Project alternatives (three meetings in June 2015), the alternatives screening process and results (three meetings in December 2015), and public hearings on the Draft EIS (five public hearings in October 2017). In addition, DRPT participated in public meetings held in Fredericksburg and Ashland to discuss project alternatives. DRPT also convened the Town of Ashland/Hanover County Community Advisory Committee, which had five meetings in summer of 2017 that were all open to the public.
DRPT and the FRA review the comments received during the comment period for the Draft EIS. Comments received outside of the formal period are reviewed by the project team and added to the project’s administrative record as well.
Public hearings were held shortly after the Draft EIS was published in October 2017. Please visit the Draft EIS Online Meeting page to view hearing materials.
Information from previous public meetings can be found in the Public Meeting Archive.
Because the DC2RVA project corridor is 123 miles long, the DC2RVA project relies heavily on email to communicate with the more than 12,000 people (and growing!) who have shown interest in the project. The best way to stay informed about upcoming public meetings and project updates is to provide us your email address using the comment form.
Property notification letters are sent when it is necessary to access a property to conduct field data collection related to the project. These letters state the purpose of the property access, establish a 90-day range in which access may occur, and identify the individuals who may enter the property. Please note that receipt of a property notification letter does not mean that construction projects will occur on the property or that a decision on the improvements in the area of the property has been made. Learn more about the property owner notification process.
Maps of the project corridor are available on the Interactive Corridor Map. If you have trouble viewing your property, please let our team know by filling out our comment form or giving us a call on the project hotline at (888) 832-0900 TDD 711. Please note that the alternatives marked on the map are still being evaluated and do not represent final design. The designs depicted are subject to change.
The project will develop information on projected ridership, infrastructure needs (additional track, signals, sidings, stations, etc.), crossing improvements, construction and long-term operating costs, safety, and other public benefits.
Future funding of the Project will be determined through existing federal and state budget processes. As with any large infrastructure Project, it is possible that Virginia may seek new funding through a bond or tax, which may advance legislatively or may require a public vote.
This section of the Executive Summary provides an overview of how the Project would impact the built and natural environment. The effects are presented for each Build Alternative, for each environmental resource. It is the intent of this section to summarize key results that differentiate the Build Alternatives and assist in the decisions to be made. There is a more detailed summary of Project effects for each environmental discipline evaluated in the Draft EIS.
Effects to the natural and built environment were avoided and minimized where feasible as part of the conceptual engineering that was conducted in support of the Draft EIS. Where negative impacts cannot be avoided or minimized, they are mitigated where required. Mitigation can be accomplished through repairing, rehabilitating, or restoring the impacted environment. Sometimes impacts are compensated for by replacing or providing substitute resources.
Mitigations will continue to be addressed throughout the Draft and Final EIS process. Specific mitigations identified for consideration to date in the Draft EIS include the following:
- Natural Resources: For every wetland acre that is destroyed, compensatory wetlands must be created or purchased from a wetland bank, as well as the use of best Management Practices to ensure sufficient measures during and after construction. Construction would be regulated to adhere to a strict schedule with possible time-of-year restrictions as necessary.
- Geologic Resources: Due to the nature of railroad construction, the need to compensate for limiting soil characteristics is likely negated. Minimization was considered through alternatives development process.
- Hazardous Materials: Any hazardous material discovered will be removed and disposed of in compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local regulations. All necessary remediation would be conducted in compliance with applicable federal, state, and local environmental laws and would be coordinated with the EPA, DEQ, and other federal or state agencies as necessary. All solid waste material resulting from clearing and grubbing, demolition, or other construction operations would be removed and disposed of according to regulations.
- Air Quality: Dust and airborne dirt generated by construction activities will be controlled through dust control procedures or a specific dust control plan in accordance with the provisions on fugitive dust control in the VDOT Road and Bridge Specifications.
- Noise & Vibration: Use of continuously welded rail (CWR) to reduce the effects of noise and vibration from train operations and/ or use of buffer zones between the tracks and receptors
- Visual: Construction of any new structures to be similar in kind, size, and character to existing structures
- Community Resources: The acquisition of right-of-way and the relocation of displaced persons and businesses would be conducted in accordance with the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, as amended. Assurance is given that relocation resources would be available to residential, business, farm, and nonprofit displacees without discrimination
- Environmental Justice: Coordination with affected communities where any disproportionate impacts are identified
- Park Resources: Where avoidance of park resources is not possible, any impacts will be coordinated with the park owners to determine agreement with a Section 4(f) De Minimis taking and to determine compensation of land if any Section 6(f) properties are impacted.
- Cultural Resources: Where avoidance of historic properties is not possible, measures will be undertaken to minimize and mitigate for impacts. Historic properties affected by this project will be included in the Project Section 106 agreement document, where stipulations to mitigate any adverse effects will be clearly outlined.
Additional minimization and avoidance measures can occur throughout the Preliminary and Final Design, such as alignment modifications to shift the limits of disturbance to avoid or minimize certain resource impacts.
Passenger trains are much quieter than longer, heavier freight trains. Most unwelcome train noise occurs at road crossings where trains are required to blow horns and whistles as a safety warning to drivers. Noise and vibration analyses were conducted as part of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). More information on noise and vibration analysis can be found in Appendix P of the Draft EIS. The applicability of measures to mitigate potential noise impacts, such as noise barriers, will be evaluated during the project’s final design, after funding is established.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was prepared to gather data about the environment along the Project corridor, including impacts to wetlands and other aquatic resources. DRPT’s evaluation of wetlands is being coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. This information is available on the Draft EIS page. Technical details on wetland impacts in the corridor are located in Appendix M. The document recommends measures to avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts to wetlands.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was prepared to gather environmental data along the Project corridor in order to assess potential impacts to stormwater runoff, waterways, and floodplains. This information is available on the Draft EIS page. Technical details on stormwater and floodplains in the corridor are located in Appendix Q and Appendix M.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was prepared to gather data about the environment along the Project corridor, including the habitats of threatened and endangered species and other natural resources. DRPT’s evaluation of threatened and endangered species and other natural resources is being coordinated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and multiple state agencies. This information is available on the Draft EIS page. Technical details on endangered species are located in Appendix M of the Draft EIS.
DRPT needs information on the locations and boundaries of man-made, natural and cultural resources, such as driveways and private access roads, wetlands, cemeteries, and historic structures, in order to fully understand the potential impacts of the project. If you receive a property notification letter noting that DRPT’s field teams may need to access your property, please let our team know of any potential historical structures on your property (50+ years old) and any special circumstances like locked gates, livestock pastures, or aggressive dogs that we may need to be aware of before entering your property. DRPT’s field teams do not require access to the interior of your home or other buildings.
The study investigates potential impacts to properties within approximately 600 feet of the DC2RVA corridor, using FRA-approved quantitative and qualitative processes. Where a potential alternative may require additional right-of-way, property value estimates are developed following the Commonwealth’s procedures for transportation projects. The study includes noise and vibration studies, traffic levels and access, and assesses the viewshed, among other assessments related to quality of life. Some impacts can be readily measured, while other impacts are not as easy to quantify. Public comments on issues that aren’t as easy to quantify are extremely helpful.
Northern Virginia-specific FAQs
Property notification letters are sent when it is necessary to access a property to conduct field data collection related to the project. These letters state the purpose of the property access, establish a 90-day range in which access may occur, and identify the individuals who may enter the property. Please note that receipt of a property notification letter does not mean that construction projects will occur on the property or that a decision on the improvements in the area of the property has been made.
Arlington (Approach to Long Bridge)
Three alternatives are being considered to align the DC2RVA corridor with the rail bridge across the Potomac, known as the Long Bridge. The Washington, D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) is conducting an EIS to expand capacity on Long Bridge with one of the following alternatives: two new tracks to the east, two new tracks to the west, or a single new track on each side approaching the existing Long Bridge. Improvements would be built within the existing right of way.
Remaining Northern Virginia Section
The Northern Virginia section extends from the Long Bridge approach in Arlington to Spotsylvania, Virginia. DRPT recommends adding a third track in areas of this section that currently only have two tracks. This would create a continuous section of co-mingled three-track rail. In addition, there would be a six mile section of four tracks from Alexandria to Long Bridge. DRPT recommends shifting track in curves where practical to gain greater speed, improving crossings, signals, safety systems, and accommodating VRE platform improvements.
DDOT is leading the EIS for the Long Bridge project, which includes additional bridge capacity over the Potomac River and track improvements into Union Station. Virginia plans to use Atlantic Gateway funding to construct six miles of a fourth main line track from Arlington, Virginia to Alexandria, Virginia.
The Atlantic Gateway is a multi-modal suite of highway, transit, and rail projects focused on the I-95 corridor between Washington, D.C. and Fredericksburg, VA. The Commonwealth pursued a FASTLANE grant to leverage public and private investment to improve one of the nation’s busiest corridors. The program will reduce travel times, expand access to employment opportunities, enhance the ability to move people and freight, and alleviate some of the worst bottlenecks in the United States.
The Atlantic Gateway includes freight and commuter rail, highway, and technology components. Rail improvements along the DC2RVA corridor include construction of a fourth main line track from the south bank of the Potomac River to Alexandria, dedication of the S-Line between Petersburg and the North Carolina line (setting the stage for expanded passenger rail service to Raleigh and Charlotte), construction of a third main line track between Franconia/Springfield VRE Station and the Occoquan River in Fairfax County, engineering for Long Bridge Phase II, and improving rail operations along the corridor. More information on these rail programs may be found on the Atlantic Gateway website.
DRPT evaluated three Build Alternatives in the Fredericksburg area, and determined that additional capacity through Fredericksburg is necessary to meet the Project’s Purpose and Need. The Recommended Preferred Alternative would add a new third main line adjacent to the existing tracks on the east through the City of Fredericksburg (Alternative 3B), which would provide the capacity needed to increase train service and improve reliability. A 3rd track through the City of Fredericksburg would remain primarily within the existing CSXT right-of-way, and its impacts to wetlands, residential and commercial properties would be substantially lower than a bypass alternative (Alternative 3C). The Recommended Preferred Alternative is also compatible with the City’s comprehensive plans.
FRA and CSX are projecting freight growth at about 2.5% a year. We understand from project modeling and from Amtrak, VRE, and CSX operations analysis that the existing corridor is at capacity. Adding track to form a continuous three track co-mingled corridor would add more capacity and allow for better reliability and frequency.
A bypass is one of the alternatives being considered to meet the capacity need. It would be primarily a freight bypass, but could also carry long distance trains. If rail capacity is added in the form of a freight bypass, , it allows for more capacity for the freight trains on this alternate route, and more capacity for passenger trains through the current Fredericksburg station.
All alternatives are evaluated based on ability to achieve the project’s Purpose and Need, which is available on the project website. The evaluation considers potential property impacts and potential impacts to cultural and natural resources, as well as the potential for benefits to transportation. These criteria are used to evaluate each alternative, which will be documented in the Draft EIS.
Several bypass alignments were presented as options in June 2015. As the project team finds sensitive resources in the corridor and receives public input, we consider different options designed to have fewer impacts. We developed the current potential bypass alignment through a process that assessed the potential impacts to sensitive resources in response to public input. The assessment was carried out using available mapping resources and field investigations. The full documentation will be available in the Draft EIS.
The existing civil speed restriction of 40 mph in Fredericksburg would remain in place for all trains even if new tracks are built. While the DC2RVA design allows for a maximum authorized speed of 90 mph for passenger trains, that speed is not practical in many areas of the corridor due to congestion, track curves, and other factors.
If the bypass alternative were chosen, there would be one new bridge over the Rappahannock approximately 6 miles east of the existing rail bridge (as the crow flies). If a third track through the City is chosen, there would be a new bridge immediately downstream and parallel to the existing bridge.
The 301 corridor and other alternate routes have been considered in previous studies. The Tier I EIS from Washington, DC to Charlotte, NC was completed in 2002. The Tier I Record of Decision provided DC2RVA’s Tier II EIS direction on the general alignment of the corridor to be evaluated. The Tier I ROD directs the Tier II study to keep rail infrastructure within the existing CSX corridor as much as possible. While the current study does not directly consider the 301 corridor, it doesn’t preclude it from being considered in the future.
There is a range of alternatives still being considered as DRPT prepares the EIS. The purpose of the environmental process is to gather data to assist in evaluating the merits of different alternatives. A final decision on a preferred alternative will not be made until the EIS process is complete.
DRPT is studying several alternatives in the Ashland area: one would add a third track through Ashland beside the existing tracks, and another would result in a 2-track bypass going to the west of Ashland. A third build alternative would not add any tracks through Ashland, but would include various improvements to crossings, signals, and safety systems. This alternative will depend on results of operational modeling, which will verify the minimum infrastructure needed to accommodate expected capacity. The Ashland station and platforms would need to be expanded and improved in all of these alternatives. You can review mapping of the potential alternatives here.
A no-build alternative is being considered corridor-wide as a baseline or benchmark against which the build alternatives are evaluated.
Passenger and freight trains currently operate through Ashland at restricted speeds of 35 mph from 7 am to 7 pm every day except Friday which runs from 7am to 10pm. At other times, the allowable train speed is 45 mph. The project is not contemplating a change to these speeds through Ashland.
Amtrak, VRE, and CSX are responsible for monitoring the speed of their respective trains consistent with Federal regulations issued by the Federal Railroad Administration.
In addition to higher speeds, increased capacity and improved reliability of performance are major goals of the project. The shared freight and passenger rail corridor between Washington, D.C. and Richmond is nearing capacity and requires improvements in order to effectively and efficiently meet existing and future demands for passenger service, commuter passenger service, and freight service.
On December 6th, 2017, the Commonwealth Transportation Board passed a resolution recommending a Preferred Alternative for DC2RVA. This recommendation adopts Alternative 5A, also known as the 3-2-3 alternative, as the Preferred Alternative. Alternative 5A does not eliminate Center Street access in Ashland. Additional details are available in the Draft EIS.
The 2002 Tier I Record of Decision for the Washington, D.C. to Charlotte SEHSR program selected an incremental approach to develop the SEHSR program. A key element of the selected incremental approach is to upgrade existing rail corridors (instead of developing new corridors). The incremental approach seeks to minimize cost and potential impacts to the environment by utilizing existing railroad tracks and rail rights-of-way as much as possible.
DRPT evaluated rail alignment bypass options on the east and west of Ashland as potential alternatives in lieu of adding a third track through Ashland. This evaluation covered multiple bypass options east of Ashland, including the Buckingham Branch Railroad. The Draft EIS documents findings, which showed greater potential impacts to existing infrastructure, land use, and cultural and natural resources compared to a bypass west of Ashland.
In addition, the Ashland/Hanover Community Advisory Committee took a fresh look at all of the alternatives reviewed by DRPT, including bypass alignments east and west of Ashland. The Committee discussed the alternatives during five public meetings, and subsequently Committee determined that none of the eastern bypass alignments were acceptable.
Through the DC2RVA alternatives development process and related community meetings, DRPT recognized the unique nature of the Town of Ashland and Hanover County area, and that many of the alternatives for greater rail capacity in this area generated community concerns. As a result, DRPT recommended to the FRA a community-based effort to supplement DC2RVA public involvement activities and help inform DRPT's recommendation for a Preferred Alternative that provides the required rail capacity through the Ashland/Hanover area. As part of the community-based effort, DRPT proposes that the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) will take a more intensive look at all previous options. The CAC could also identify potential new options to meet the purpose and need of the DC2RVA project, while minimizing or avoiding any potential impacts of those options.
In preparing the Draft EIS, DRPT screened out several options that did not appear reasonable in comparison to other alternatives. However, all of these options are “on the table” for review by the Community Advisory Committee. The project team has provided additional information on the specific options that CAC members have discussed. All alternatives considered in preparation of the Draft EIS and through the Community Advisory Committee are available here: https://www.dc2rvarail.com/about/ashland-alternatives/ashland-cac/
DRPT has not proposed fencing as part of any of the options that were developed. FRA’s guidance advises against conditions that allow passengers to cross between platforms across the active tracks at stations. The CAC, FRA, and other stakeholders can work on a specific approach to encourage passengers to use the crossings provided. Safety fencing at the station, if required by FRA/Amtrak, would be located between tracks and pedestrian walkways parallel to the tracks and would be placed a minimum of 9 feet from the centerline of the nearest track. Fencing may conform to architectural desires as long as it meets safety requirements.
The Project is being evaluated through a process established by the National Environmental Policy Act. As part of this planning process, DRPT and FRA must consider all reasonable alternatives for their ability to meet the Project’s Purpose and Need. The Project considered new station locations in Richmond based on comments received during the Project scoping meetings in 2014, input from the public throughout the development of the Draft EIS, and comments received during the Draft EIS public comment period.
There are currently seven alternatives being considered in the Richmond section which include various stations and combinations of stations. These include four single-station options that would consolidate passenger services to one station (either Staples Mill Road Station, a new Boulevard Station, a new Broad Street Station, or Main Street Station), and three two-station options that offer combinations of services and routes using Main Street Station and Staples Mill Road Station. You can view mapping of these alternatives and station options by visiting the Richmond Section of the Interactive Corridor Maps.
Studies and Reports
On exceptionally large projects, especially proposed highway and railroad corridors that cross long distances, a two-tiered (Tier II) process is often used before implementing the proposed action. In such cases, the Tier I Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) are focused on helping to make the large-scale decisions, such as what type of new service is needed and which general corridor would be best for the new service. However, the Tier I EIS and ROD do not identify the exact location where new transportation infrastructure will be required. Following the Tier I ROD, a more detailed Tier II evaluation is conducted for the proposed project that evaluates the specific actions and improvements required to support the new service. The Tier II evaluation is supported by more detailed engineering and cost estimating. The Tier II process will conclude with a ROD that will allow permitting, final design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction to proceed.
The Richmond-to-Raleigh Tier II EIS was finalized in 2015, and a Record of Decision (ROD) from the FRA is anticipated in 2016. The Richmond-to-Raleigh Tier II EIS establishes the rail improvements required for the SEHSR segment connecting to DC2RVA in Richmond. Our study slightly overlaps the Richmond to Raleigh study in Chesterfield County to allow consideration of all possible rail alignments and station locations serving Richmond.
DRPT, in coordination with FRA, VDOT, Amtrak, Virginia Railways Express, and CSX, developed a comprehensive Engineering Basis of Design for the project. The DC2RVA Engineering Basis of Design is available in Documents on the project website.
A Service Development Plan, required by the FRA and finalized after selection of the Preferred Alternative, lays out the overall scope and approach for the proposed service. It has some elements in common with the EIS; for example, confirming the purpose and need for new or improved HSIPR service and describing alternatives that were considered. The SDP must also demonstrate the operational and financial feasibility of the alternative that is proposed to be pursued. Financial feasibility requires detailed analysis of the anticipated ridership and revenue from fares paid and any auxiliary revenue (for example, from on-board food and beverage sales). Operational feasibility considers specific stopping patterns and train schedules at several points in the future. If applicable, the SDP describes how the implementation of the high-speed rail program may be divided into discrete phases.
The SDP also addresses the location of the stations to be served by the proposed new or improved service, how these stations will accommodate the proposed service (for example, with amenities such as baggage handling or parking), how passengers will access those stations, and how these stations will be integrated with connections to other modes of transportation.