The EIS Process

June 29, 2016

The EIS Process | Tier II Environmental Impact Statement 

An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a document required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), which mandates that environmental impacts be considered in the decision-making process for all federal actions – resulting in better and more informed decisions. For the Southeast High Speed Rail (SEHSR) corridor, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) determined that the environmental review should be conducted in a two-step or tiered EIS process. The Tier I EIS for Washington, D.C. to Charlotte, N.C. was completed in 2002.  It  answered many of the big picture questions, such as adopting an incremental approach and utilizing existing rail corridors. The DC2RVA Tier II EIS kicked off in October 2014 and is addressing the site-specific and regional issues associated with implementing additional passenger rail service on the rail corridor between Washington, DC and Richmond, VA, in particular. The Tier II process is following these EIS steps:

 1. Agency & Public Scoping (Completed 2014)

Scoping is the first step in the EIS process, when information is gathered and analyzed from federal, state, and local agencies, special interest groups and the public to inform the final scope of the project. Read the Scoping Summary Report.

 2.  Purpose & Need Statement (Completed 2016)

The Purpose and Need Statement of an EIS establishes reasons for undertaking the proposed improvement project. Improvement options considered are based on the purpose and need elements for the project. Read the Purpose and Need Statement.

 3. Alternatives Development and Screening (2014-2016) – In progress

Alternatives development and conceptual engineering is the heart of the EIS evaluation process. During this phase, improvement alternatives or options are developed and are subjected to a rigorous screening process. The goal is to reach a set of approvable and buildable improvement alternatives that meet the purpose and need while minimizing impacts to environmental and community resources. Several improvement alternatives were presented to the public for review and input in December 2015 and are now being carried forward into the Draft EIS for further detailed investigation.

 4. Draft EIS & Public Hearing (2016) – In progress

DRPT is now preparing the Draft EIS for review and comment by the public. This document will include detailed environmental, engineering and operational information about each improvement alternative and will provide a side-by-side comparison of the potential benefits and effects of each. Based on this information, it will recommend a Preferred Alternative. The Draft EIS will be available to the general public and agencies online and also available in printed copy at various locations.  Comments will be accepted on the Draft EIS for 45 days following its publication. During the comment period, DRPT will host formal public hearings to present the findings of the Draft EIS, and to receive public and agency comments. The publication of the Draft EIS and associated public hearings are expected to take place in late 2016.

 5. Final EIS (2017)

Based on public and agency comments on the Draft EIS, DRPT will review and address issues or concerns raised and document them in a Final EIS. This subsequent document will summarize and address comments on the Draft EIS and present a refined Preferred Alternative along with plans to mitigate significant adverse impacts. Copies of the Final EIS will be distributed to federal, state, and local entities including the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB); published online; and provided to regional libraries for public viewing.

 6. Record of Decision (2017)

The Record of Decision (ROD) is the final step in this process and signifies approval of a proposed action. The ROD is a formal decision document issued by FRA and identifies the Preferred Alternative, presents the basis for the decision, includes all the alternatives considered, and commits to the measures to mitigate unavoidable environmental impacts. DRPT will present the recommendations in the Final EIS to the CTB. If the proposed action (Preferred Alternative) is favorable, the project may proceed to the next step of Final Engineering and Design.