What is in the Draft EIS?

January 11, 2017

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will document the findings of a comprehensive environmental analysis of proposed improvements to passenger rail service between Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA and recommend a Preferred Alternative or package of preferred alternatives. The Draft EIS is intended to help decision-makers understand the benefits and risks of moving forward with this project and how to mitigate any potential impacts. 

On exceptionally large projects such as proposed highway and railroad corridors that cross long distances, a two-tiered environmental review process is often used before implementing the proposed action.  Prior to the DC2RVA project, a Tier I EIS was completed for the corridor that focused on helping to make large-scale decisions, such as what type of new service was needed and which general corridor would be best for the new service.  The more detailed Tier II EIS is currently being 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.

DRPT is currently completing the analysis of environmental, socio-economic and historic resources in the corridor, which are used  to evaluate and compare the merits of each alternative based on categories consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The analysis will determine whether the improvements will affect air quality, noise, vibration, water, open space and several other aspects of the human and natural environments. 

In addition to determining environmental and community impacts of the alternatives, the Draft EIS will evaluate engineering requirements, transportation impacts, cost, and potential benefits associated with each alternative compared to the impact of a No Build Alternative.

The Draft EIS will present recommended alternatives based on extensive environmental, engineering and operational analyses as well as public and agency input. A recommendation for the Preferred Alternative will be included in the report along with a side-by-side comparison of the alternatives, including a No Build alternative. All reasonable and feasible alternatives will be analyzed before a Preferred Alternative is identified. The recommendation of the Preferred Alternative in the Draft EIS is not a final decision.

DRPT also will update the existing Service Development Plan to describe the goals, overall scope of the project, and approach of the proposed service including estimates of ridership, capital investments for infrastructure, operating subsidies, public benefits, and an implementation schedule.

DRPT will release the Draft EIS for public review in late fall 2016 and hold a series of public hearings throughout the corridor to provide an opportunity for the public and agencies to review, discuss and provide comments on the Draft EIS.

A formal decision on a final Preferred Alternative will be made after the public hearings and all input provided has been considered. All comments and the reasons for the selection of the Preferred Alternative will be presented to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) for approval.   The CTB’s decision will be documented in a Final EIS. The decision process will be finalized with the issuance of a Record of Decision (ROD) by the FRA.  The ROD will formally document the reasons for the selection and the environmental commitments required for the project to move forward.