RD243 - Review of Potential Richmond to Hampton Roads Passenger Rail Study

Executive Summary:
In December 2012, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) signed a Record of Decision (ROD) for a Tier I Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)(*1) for future higher speed and intercity passenger rail service between Richmond and Hampton Roads, satisfying the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Tier I EIS considered alternatives for improving rail service between the regions. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) prepared this Tier I EIS.

The ROD identified the existing Southside/Norfolk Southern (NS) Route as the preferred alternative for new higher speed passenger rail service (six round trips at maximum 90 mph). The Southside/NS Route generally follows the U.S. Route 460 corridor south of the James River between Norfolk and Petersburg. This route was made possible due to a i) $93 million series of rail improvements in Hampton Roads and ii) NS’s construction of the Collier Connector linking the Southside/NS Route to CSXT’s North End subdivision at Collier Yard near Petersburg and allowing for third track accommodation.

The ROD also recommended increased conventional speed intercity passenger rail service (three round trips at maximum 79 mph) along the existing Peninsula/CSXT Route between Newport News and Richmond. Currently, two state-supported passenger trains provide daily round-trip service along this route. A map of these routes is included in Appendix A.

The remaining approximate 24-mile rail corridor that connects Richmond to Petersburg is labeled “alignment to be determined by SEHSR [Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor.]” This area is included in the scope of two adjacent related NEPA studies: i) Richmond to Raleigh Tier II EIS, completed in 2016; and ii) the ongoing Washington, D.C. to Richmond Southeast High Speed Rail project (DC2RVA). Currently, one Virginia state-supported passenger train originating in Norfolk, four Amtrak long distance trains, and an additional North Carolina state-sponsored train utilizes this corridor.

The Richmond to Hampton Roads Tier I EIS Passenger Rail Study ROD made DRPT and FRA eligible to initiate a Tier II NEPA process for the purpose of delivering future higher speed rail service between Richmond and Hampton Roads. A Tier II EIS would develop, evaluate, and recommend specific improvements within the corridor that are consistent with the ROD and that would achieve the purpose and need of the Tier I level EIS.
(*1) http://www.drpt.virginia.gov/rail/major-initiatives/richmondhampton-roads-passenger-rail-project/