You are joining the second online meeting for the Washington, D.C. to Richmond Southeast High Speed Rail (DC2RVA) project hosted by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT).
DRPT, in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration, is studying new intercity passenger rail service as part of a Tier II Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This online open house meeting is an opportunity for you to participate and provide comments.
We appreciate the time you spend with us today, and we encourage you to participate throughout the rest of the Tier II EIS process. Information presented in this online meeting is the same information presented at the in-person open house meetings being held on June 1, 2, and 3, 2015, in the project corridor.
Please use the arrows located on each side of the screen to navigate through this meeting.
We hope you find the information throughout this online meeting useful and easy to follow. If you have questions or comments along the way, we encourage you to click on the button at the top left of the screen. To receive project updates, please complete the contact information on the Get Involved page.
The Washington, D.C. to Richmond segment of the Southeast High Speed Rail (SEHSR) corridor is part of a larger higher speed intercity passenger rail plan identified by USDOT and including the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
The DC2RVA project will provide the critical link between the northeast rail corridor and the rest of the SEHSR corridor, enhancing the connectivity between Washington, D.C., Richmond, and beyond by providing faster and more reliable intercity passenger rail service. In order to make the rail enhancements necessary to achieve the project goals, DRPT is actively working on a Tier II EIS to meet requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The EIS provides federal, state, and local agencies, elected officials, and the public with information about site-specific impacts the project could have on people, places, and the natural environment.
The scoping phase yielded an outpouring of public interest and input. Public comments ranged from general support or opposition to very specific remarks on particular locations and resources. They also included several logistical comments and questions related to the scoping meetings and comment process, such as requests for meeting accommodations for sign language, comments on website function, and information requests.
DRPT received a total of 1,625 scoping comments. All comments received were fully considered. DRPT reviewed each comment, then categorized them by topic and appropriately grouped them for response.
Of the public comments received, 1,220 of them were form letters regarding pedestrian and bicycle accommodations in the form of a greenway, as well as general support for the project to provide reliable service. The rest were unique letters, emails, comment forms, or telephone comments, though many of them touched on similar themes.
The full Scoping Summary Report can be found on the project website.
The project builds on the findings of the Tier I EIS prepared for the SEHSR corridor and takes into account considerations specific to the Commonwealth and the existing freight, commuter, and intercity passenger rail services in this region.
The purpose of the project is to develop an intercity passenger rail service between Washington, D.C. and Richmond that will provide a competitive transportation option for travelers in the corridor and beyond. Reducing travel times, improving reliability, and increasing service frequencies are key components of this strategy and will require improvements that increase rail capacity in the corridor.
Current conditions experienced in the project corridor are the foundation for the project’s need today. These conditions include:
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The 2002 Tier I EIS stated that the purpose of the high speed rail program was to provide a competitive travel option. While higher speed passenger rail is an obvious part of the solution, efficiency of the overall system is a primary driver, which can be achieved with improved reliability, shorter travel times, and increased service frequency.
To that end, DRPT’s goal is to add eight new round trips to the existing intercity passenger rail service. As the Existing Rail Traffic density graphic shows, the project corridor is nearing capacity because of combined additional traffic from Amtrak, VRE, CSX, and Norfolk Southern. Capacity must be added to the project corridor to accommodate the eight new round trips.
In order to add capacity to the project corridor, additional main-line track needs to be built. To help determine where the new track could go, DRPT is developing preliminary rail alignment options that will serve as the basis for refined alternatives for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
The unconstrained rail alignment option identifies what the rail alignment would look like if the primary criteria were to design track capable of a maximum allowable speed for passenger trains of 90 mph along the entire corridor, without being constrained by the limits of the existing right-of-way (ROW). While optimizing track design speed, this option would also generally have greater impacts to environmental resources and other infrastructure.
The constrained rail alignment option is a three-track design where the design goal is to maximize passenger train speed up to 90 mph wherever feasible, with the only design constraint being that the tracks would stay within the limits of the existing ROW.
This alignment option would not move the existing two tracks, but adds a third track the length of the corridor on either the west or east side.
This option would only use the existing tracks, meaning no additional capacity is added, but some minor improvements such as upgraded or new platforms and upgraded track in small, specific segments would be made.
Adding a third main-line track through Fredericksburg would most likely impact historic resources. Therefore DRPT is evaluating options to bypass most freight traffic around Fredericksburg in order to add capacity and reduce conflicts with VRE and Amtrak passenger trains.
Adding a third main-line track at grade through historic downtown Ashland would impact existing car lanes. The constraints on the rail alignment make it very difficult to add additional track to this section of rail. Therefore, DRPT also will evaluate elevated and below grade alignments, as well as bypass options for some or all rail traffic around Ashland.
The issues in Richmond are more complicated than in the rest of the corridor as there are multiple alignments that could carry additional passenger or freight service. Richmond alignments will be based on which stations are served and the associated passenger and freight service operational requirements.
We are in the beginning stages of identifying potential alternatives for the project corridor. It is important to remember that no decisions have been made to date. At this point in the project, we are sharing with you the process we will follow in the coming months to help narrow down alternatives for things like, where new track will go, and which stations will serve the new high speed rail service. We will be holding another round of public meetings in late 2015 to update you on our progress in evaluating these issues. Check the project website for dates!
We want to hear what is important to you. Please provide your input on the potential impacts and benefits that DRPT is considering as it develops and evaluates alternatives.
As indicated in the timeline, this is the second opportunity for you to participate in the DC2RVA project. If you are interested in sharing project information with your peers, family, or friends, be sure to visit our project website at www.DC2RVArail.com.
Are you interested in joining us at an in-person public meeting? Three meetings will be held in early June 2015. Check the project website for meeting dates, times, and locations.