Friday, August 31, 2012

Richmond to Hampton Roads HSR Project receives Final Environmental Impact Statement approval

The Federal Railroad Administration and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT) have issued the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for two routes connecting the Hampton Roads area to Richmond and the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor in Virginia. The newly identified route south of the James River recommends a new, 90-110 mph alignment from downtown Norfolk through Petersburg to Richmond, while maintaining Amtrak's current service from Newport News through Williamsburg to Richmond.

The new route south of the James River could include up to six daily round trips operating at speeds up to 110 mph between downtown Norfolk, Chesapeake (Bower's Hill Station), Petersburg and downtown Richmond. The FEIS also recommends continuing Amtrak's Northeast Regional service between Newport News and Richmond to serve the communities and attractions north of the James River.

Both routes will connect to the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor in Richmond, providing passengers the ability to travel south to Charlotte, N.C. (and Atlanta in the future) and north to Washington, D.C., and beyond.

"The approval of the FEIS represents a major milestone in the process including a thorough analysis incorporating public input to recommend these routes," said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo. "This plan will expand the passenger rail network connection with a vital passenger rail corridor."

After a 30-day comment period and resolution of all outstanding issues, FRA will issue a Record of Decision (ROD) on the project, the final step in the environmental review. The ROD will identify the selected route, present the basis for the decision, identify all alternatives that were considered, specify the environmentally preferable alternative and provide information on the adopted means to avoid, minimize and compensate for environmental impacts. Upon signature of the ROD, the National Environmental Protection Act process will be complete.

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