In late April 2012, the Recommendation Report for the Tier II Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the Southeast High Speed Rail (SEHSR) project from Richmond, Virginia to Raleigh, North Carolina was released. This report was drafted jointly by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rail Division. The report provides an overview of the history of the project, considerations taken in determining rail alignment alternatives, and description with rationale of the alignment alternative selected.
Project Scope and History
The SEHSR project is a 450 mile corridor rail project from Washington, DC to Charlotte, North Carolina. For the past twenty years, the project has been under incremental development.
• October 1992 - Corridor was identified as a High Speed Rail corridor.
• December 1995 -Corridor modified to include an extension from Richmond to Hampton Roads.
• December 1998 - Corridor was extended from Charlotte, North Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia and Raleigh, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida.
In 2002, the Tier I Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the entire SEHSR Corridor was published with a Record of Decision (ROD) from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The FEIS looked into broad impacts to the natural and built environment as a result of the project.
In May 2010, the Tier II Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Richmond to Raleigh portion of the SEHSR Corridor was published. This DEIS delved into specific project impacts to the natural and built environment. The DEIS is awaiting a ROD from the FRA as of May 2012.
Concurrent with the SEHSR project, there is a Tier I DEIS for the Richmond to Hampton Roads Passenger Rail Project that has been published and awaiting a ROD from the FRA. The SEHSR and Richmond to Hampton Roads Passenger Rail Projects will share a common alignment from Richmond to Petersburg.
The rail alternatives for the Richmond to Raleigh SEHSR Project were evaluated along 26 segments in the project’s corridor. As part of the Tier II DEIS for the SEHSR project, various factors were used to evaluate alternatives. However, the recommendations report made note that Speed was a critical factor in the evaluation process. To evaluate speed, four specific speed metrics were used, including:
• Maximum Authorized Speed (MAS) - Maximum allowable speed a train may operate based on authorization from the owner of the rail corridor and the Federal Railroad Administration.
• Average Running Speed - Total amount of time it takes a train to go a set distance, including station stops, schedule recovering time, and speed restrictions.
• Design Speed - Maximum safe speed that can be maintained on a specific section of rail.
• Limiting Speed - Maximum safe speed on the most restrictive curve in the rail corridor.
As it relates to Hampton Roads, the AA, BB, and CC segments of the SEHSR corridor are pertinent. These segments have common alignments on existing CSX tracks across all proposed alternatives.
• Section AA - 11.3 mile segment from Richmond to Centralia, a MAS of 79 mph was designated.
• Section BB - 6.9 mile segment from Centralia to Woods Edge Road in Chester, a MAS of 90 mph was designated.
• Section CC - 8.9 mile segment from Woods Edge Road in Chester to Collier Yard outside of Petersburg, a limiting speed of 80 mph was designated.
Critical to both the SEHSR and Richmond to Hampton Roads projects, Section CC includes the replacement and expansion of the Appomattox River rail bridge, as well as a connection to the Norfolk Southern N& W Beltline rail (currently under construction).
For the Tier II DEIS, there were extensive public involvement opportunities for input on the project. There were eight public hearings that were held in July 2010 along the corridor. Additionally, a public comment period was open from May to September 2010, which solicited 1900 comments. Within the public comments, 61% expressed support for the project, 38% opposed the project, and 1% conditionally supported the project.
For more information on the Southeast High Speed Rail project, consult the project website at www.sehsr.org.