Welcome to NEC FUTURE, a comprehensive planning effort to define, evaluate, and prioritize future investments in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), from Washington, D.C. to Boston. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) launched NEC FUTURE in February 2012 to consider the role of rail passenger service in the context of current and future transportation demands. Through the NEC FUTURE program, the FRA will determine a long-term vision and investment program for the NEC, and provide a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Service Development Plan (SDP) in 2016 in support of that vision.
The NEC, the rail transportation spine of the Northeast region, is a key component of the region's transportation system and vital to its sustained economic growth. Today, the 457-mile NEC—anchored by Washington, D.C.'s Union Station in the south, New York's Pennsylvania Station in the center, and Boston's South Station in the north—is one of the most heavily traveled rail corridors in the world. The NEC is shared by intercity, commuter, and freight operations and moves more than 365 million passengers and 14 million car-miles of freight per year.
FRA Defines "No Action Alternative" for NEC FUTURE
The FRA has completed development of the No Action Alternative for the NEC FUTURE Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement, as described in the No Action Alternative Report. The FRA will use the No Action Alternative as a baseline for comparing the effects of each of three Action Alternatives.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that the lead federal agency define a No Action Alternative, or the conditions that will exist in an analysis year if a proposed action is not implemented. For the Tier 1 EIS, the FRA has defined the No Action Alternative as the condition of the Northeast region’s multi-modal transportation system in 2040.
For this Tier 1 EIS, the No Action Alternative is not a “do nothing” alternative. Instead, it assumes that sufficient capital investment is available to keep the NEC’s systems and infrastructure functioning properly to support existing service levels. Transportation projects included in the No Action Alternative generally fall into one of the following three categories: 1) funded projects or projects with approved funding plans (e.g., federal or state committed funding); 2) funded or unfunded mandates; and 3) unfunded projects necessary to keep the railroad running. The No Action Alternative represents a “snapshot in time” based on current information.
Beyond specific named projects, the No Action Alternative assumes that individual railroad operators will continue to maintain the NEC through their annual capital investment programs. It also assumes some additional level of investment, beyond currently expected funding levels, as required for normal replacement of track, signals and communications, structures, and electrical infrastructure as well as funded fleet replacement or expansion programs. This includes some—but only a modest proportion—of the significant backlog of work associated with bringing the NEC to a state of good repair.
Preliminary Alternatives Evaluation Report Available
The FRA has completed an evaluation of the Preliminary Alternatives. The results of the evaluation are summarized in the Preliminary Alternatives Evaluation Report.
The 15 Preliminary Alternatives, developed in 2013, were organized within four different program levels, each presenting a different vision for the NEC. They included varied service and route options, as described in the Preliminary Alternatives Report. The evaluation considered the ability of the Preliminary Alternatives to expand capacity, accommodate growth, rebuild aging infrastructure, improve service effectiveness and performance, and increase connectivity among services. Based on these findings, feedback from the public, and extensive consultation with stakeholders, FRA has developed a smaller set of alternatives for further analysis in the Tier 1 EIS that combine the most promising elements of the 15 Preliminary Alternatives.
View the Preliminary Alternatives Evaluation Report
Northeast Household Travel Survey Completed
FRA's NEC FUTURE team recently completed a telephone survey of households throughout the Northeast region. Approximately 12,000 households responded to questions about their travel behavior, such as where, how, and why they travel, and trip costs, as well as future travel preferences, such as travel mode, service type, and cost. The data from this survey is being used, along with other regional travel data from the NEC Commission, railroads, metropolitan planning organizations, and other sources to create an integrated ridership forecasting model for the NEC. This model will be used to forecast travel behavior and ridership for the alternatives that will be analyzed in the Tier 1 EIS. This information will help the FRA compare the performance of the alternatives and assess environmental impacts related to ridership and the number of trains on the corridor, such as noise and air quality impacts. The results will be summarized in the Tier 1 EIS, and the model will be available for FRA’s use in future projects.