[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 121 (Friday, June 22, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 37737-37738]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-15241]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Railroad Administration


Environmental Impact Statement for the Northeast Corridor Between 
Washington, DC, New York, NY, and Boston, MA

AGENCY: Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement.

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SUMMARY: FRA is issuing this Notice of Intent (Notice) to advise the 
public of the preparation of a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement 
(EIS) to evaluate potential passenger rail improvements between 
Washington, DC, New York City, and Boston, MA. FRA is leading the 
planning and environmental evaluation of the Northeast Corridor (NEC), 
an effort known as NEC FUTURE, in close coordination with the involved 
states, Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory 
Commission (NEC Commission), Amtrak and other stakeholders. The purpose 
of the NEC FUTURE program is to define current and future markets for 
improved rail service and capacity on the NEC, develop an integrated 
passenger rail transportation solution to incrementally meet those 
needs, and create a regional planning framework to engage stakeholders 
throughout the region in the development of the program.
    NEC FUTURE is being advanced consistent with the federal High-Speed 
Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program and includes the development 
of a Passenger Rail Corridor Investment Plan (PRCIP). A PRCIP provides 
the data necessary to support an FRA decision to fund and implement 
major investments in a passenger rail corridor. A PRCIP is comprised of 
two components: A Tier 1 EIS and a Service Development Plan (SDP). The 
Tier 1 EIS will be developed in accordance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 and the Council 
on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations, 40 CFR part 1500 et seq., 
and will address documentation on a broad corridor level. The SDP 
articulates the overall scope, alternatives, approach and business case 
for proposed service and improvements.
    As part of the Tier 1 EIS, FRA will evaluate various passenger rail 
alternatives: A No Action Alternative, consisting of already planned 
improvements to the corridor, and Build Alternatives consisting of a 
full array of passenger rail alternatives which could range from 
operational and service enhancements to new physical improvements. FRA 
will consider the type, location and need for ancillary facilities for 
each alternative. The primary passenger rail route is the existing NEC 
passenger rail spine and its connecting corridors; however, in some 
areas, FRA may consider alternatives off of the existing NEC.
    FRA is issuing this Notice to alert the public and agencies about 
the preparation of the Tier 1 EIS and associated SDP. To ensure that 
all significant issues are identified and considered, all interested 
parties are invited to comment on the proposed scope of environmental 
review, project purpose and need, alternatives to be considered, 
environmental effects to be considered and evaluated, and methodologies 
to be used for evaluating effects.

DATES: Submit comments by Friday, September 14, 2012. See the NEC 
FUTURE Web site (www.necfuture.com) for information on the scoping 
meeting dates.

ADDRESSES: Interested parties are encouraged to comment on-line at the 
NEC FUTURE Web site (www.necfuture.com), via email at 
info@necfuture.com, or in person at the scoping meetings. For Further 
Information or Special Assistance Contact: Rebecca Reyes-Alicea, USDOT, 
Federal Railroad Administration, Office of Railroad Policy & 
Development, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590; by email 
at info@necfuture.com, or; through the NEC FUTURE Web site 
(www.necfuture.com).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: FRA is preparing a Tier 1 EIS and SDP for 
the NEC FUTURE program. Together the EIS and SDP comprise a PRCIP that 
will define a comprehensive and integrated passenger rail network in 
the Northeast region, looking at a range of service types and 
infrastructure needs, including plans for public investment in projects 
that contribute towards efficient service and increased capacity for 
intercity and high-speed passenger rail and freight and commuter rail 
service. The PRCIP will provide the economic, financial, transportation 
and environmental analyses necessary to support an investment in 
improved rail service as a core component of a more integrated, 
efficient, safer, and higher-capacity Northeast regional transportation 
network.
    The FRA will use a tiered environmental review process for 
complying with NEPA, as per the CEQ regulations, 40 CFR 1508.28, and in 
accordance with FRA's Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts, 
64 FR 28454 (FRA Environmental Procedures). The Tier 1 EIS will also 
address the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic 
Preservation Act, 36 CFR Part 800, Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department 
of Transportation Act of 1966, 49 U.S.C. 303, and other applicable 
Federal and state laws and regulations. The outcome of the Tier 1 EIS 
will be to identify markets to be served, service(s), general alignment 
and station locations.
    The NEC FUTURE program is intended to develop a rail transportation 
investment program to support the Northeast region's economic 
competitiveness and growth potential

[[Page 37738]]

with energy-efficient and sustainable transportation services. For 
purposes of defining and analyzing transportation alternatives for NEC 
FUTURE, the study area has been broadly defined to encompass the region 
served by the NEC, plus those areas that can be reached from the NEC 
directly by train or via a single transfer to connecting corridors 
(e.g., the Empire Corridor in New York). The study area may be refined 
as the NEC FUTURE program progresses and off-corridor alternatives are 
identified.

Purpose and Need

    The Northeast region is served by an extensive intermodal passenger 
and freight transportation system of highways, airports, ports, 
intercity, commuter and freight rail, and public transit systems. 
However, that transportation system lacks sufficient capacity or 
redundancy to support local and inter-regional mobility needs, 
resulting in major congestion and delays. Many components of the system 
are in a state of disrepair or, worse, have reached the point of 
obsolescence.
    The need for the project is founded in the importance of mobility 
to the continued economic vitality of the Northeast region, coupled 
with projected population, economic and travel demand growth. Without 
investment, the limitations of the region's transportation network will 
constrain the growth, competitiveness and economic development of the 
region. The focus of NEC FUTURE is the rail network, an important 
component of the transportation network, and its role in providing and 
improving regional mobility.

Alternatives To Be Considered

    The Tier 1 EIS will evaluate preliminary alternatives including a 
No Action Alternative and various Build Alternatives. The No Action 
Alternative will serve as a baseline for comparison of all 
alternatives. The No Action Alternative will draw upon State 
Transportation Improvement Programs and existing intercity passenger, 
commuter and freight rail plans as well as planned highway and air 
network improvements. The Tier 1 EIS will develop and evaluate a range 
of reasonable Build Alternatives. The Build Alternatives will be 
developed at a corridor level and will address travel markets, 
services, operations, general alignments and station locations. Build 
Alternatives could include physical improvements to the NEC spine to 
increase capacity, enhance safety, modernize the infrastructure, 
improve reliability and reduce trip time. Other alternatives could also 
be service- or operation-related that provide rail service to new 
markets or change existing patterns of service. In addition, there may 
be Build Alternatives off the existing NEC spine or its connecting 
corridors.

Possible Effects

    FRA will evaluate direct, indirect and cumulative changes to the 
social, economic, and physical environment, including land use and 
socioeconomic conditions, ecological resources, water resources, 
cultural resources, hazardous contamination, transportation, air 
quality, noise and vibration at a level commensurate with a Tier 1 EIS. 
Analysis will be consistent with NEPA, CEQ regulations, Section 106 of 
the National Historic Preservation Act, the Endangered Species Act, 
Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, FRA Environmental Procedures, 
applicable state environmental regulations, and Section 4(f) of the 
Department of Transportation Act of 1966, along with other applicable 
Federal and State regulations.

Scoping Process

    The FRA is inviting comments and suggestions from all interested 
parties regarding the scope of the Tier 1 EIS to ensure that all uses 
are addressed related to this proposal and that any significant impacts 
are identified. Please direct comments or questions concerning the 
proposed action and the Tier 1 EIS to the FRA at the above address. FRA 
will send letters describing the proposed action and soliciting 
comments to the appropriate Federal, State, and local agencies, Native 
American tribes and to private organizations that might have previously 
expressed or that are known to have an interest in this proposal.
    FRA is leading the outreach activities with agency and public 
meetings occurring in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New 
York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and the District of 
Columbia. The meetings and other public involvement initiatives, 
including newsletters and outreach, will be held throughout the course 
of this study. Dates, times and locations for the scoping meetings and 
other opportunities for public participation will be announced on the 
NEC FUTURE Web site (www.necfuture.com) and through mailings, notices, 
advertisements and press releases. In addition, the scoping meeting 
presentation will be available on the NEC FUTURE Web site along with a 
scoping package that can also be obtained upon request by contacting 
Rebecca Reyes-Alicea at the mailing address above or electronically at 
info@necfuture.com.
    Comments will be accepted on the scoping of the EIS in meetings, 
through the NEC FUTURE Web site (www.necfuture.com) and by submitting 
written comments to Rebecca Reyes-Alicea at the address above. The 
formal comment period for scoping will be open from the date of this 
Notice until Friday, September 14, 2012.

    Issued in Washington, DC, on June 18, 2012.
John Tunna,
Director of the Office of Research and Development, Federal Railroad 
Administration.
[FR Doc. 2012-15241 Filed 6-21-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-06-P