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Update on Tier 1 EIS

On December 16, 2016, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released the Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for NEC FUTURE, the FRA's comprehensive planning effort for the Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail line from Washington, D.C., to Boston, MA. The Tier 1 Final EIS includes a Preferred Alternative, the FRA's recommended plan for growing passenger rail service on the NEC to accommodate future demand and maintain the economic competitiveness and vitality of the Northeast.

The FRA received over 1,000 letters to date regarding the Tier 1 Final EIS. The purpose of this statement is to address the primary themes of these comments while the FRA prepares the Record of Decision (ROD).

Requests for a Longer Waiting Period
A waiting period prior to the issuance of a ROD as required by the Council on Environmental Quality’s regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, ended on January 31, 2017. Many letters requested that the FRA defer issuing the ROD to allow additional time for the public to provide feedback.  The FRA values the public feedback on the Tier 1 Final EIS and Preferred Alternative received thus far. Given the interest in NEC FUTURE, the FRA will continue to consider feedback received, to the extent practicable, up to the issuance of the ROD. 

Public Meetings
The FRA held public hearings during the public comment period on the Tier 1 Draft EIS, including in each of the eight states and the District of Columbia that are part of the NEC FUTURE Study Area. The FRA provided information about the Preferred Alternative and the Tier 1 Final EIS by holding public open houses in Springfield, MA, and Baltimore, MD, on January 25 and February 1 respectively, as well as two virtual meetings via webinar on February 13 and 16. The public meeting process has now concluded.

Public Feedback
Public feedback received to date ranges from strong support for long-term growth in passenger rail service across the NEC to concerns about the impacts of proposed infrastructure investments, particularly those associated with new segments. The FRA continues to deliberate on how best to address the passenger rail needs of the region while being responsive to the feedback received.

Record of Decision
Through NEC FUTURE, the FRA is establishing a comprehensive plan that will help prioritize future investment in the NEC, and will support essential commuter and intercity services that benefit hundreds of communities in the region. NEC FUTURE improvements would enable improved and expanded train service along the NEC from Washington, D.C., to Boston.

Through the Tier 1 EIS process, FRA identified the need to reliably maintain and improve existing service to meet growth in ridership, and to address resiliency, performance, and capacity constraints along the NEC. Site-specific decisions about infrastructure improvements along the NEC will only be made after planning studies and Tier 2 environmental reviews that evaluate the specific details and location of individual projects (see FAQs for more information on Tier 2 environmental reviews and next steps). The FRA is committed to working with the states, railroads, and communities across the NEC to plan and advance the rail improvements necessary to grow the northeast region of the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the Record of Decision for NEC FUTURE?
  • What's the difference between a Tier 1 and Tier 2 study?
  • When will Tier 2 projects begin?
Tier 1 Final EIS:
Tier 1 Final EIS Available
The Tier 1 Final EIS for NEC FUTURE assesses the broad impacts of an investment program to improve passenger rail service between Washington, D.C., and Boston. It evaluates a Preferred Alternative in comparison with a No Action Alternative, and considers impacts to transportation, the economy, the built environment, and natural resources. It also includes responses to comments on the Tier 1 Draft EIS. The Tier 1 Final EIS will be used to inform the FRA's selection of an alternative in the Record of Decision.

Tier 1 Final EIS Highlights Flipbook

A quick look at the highlights of the Tier 1 Final EIS, the Preferred Alternative, and the next steps in the NEC FUTURE process.

Can You Relate?
Passenger Perspectives
Select an NEC passenger below to learn more about how the Preferred Alternative could affect their lives.


Baseball Fan

Lives in Newark, DE

Travels to Baltimore for baseball games

Improvement Highlights:
New Market / Station Frequency Travel Time Reliability Enhanced Service Concept

Chris is a Baltimore Orioles fan who lives in Newark, Delaware. He loves taking his daughter to the game and watching his favorite team in person, but traveling to Camden Yards is not convenient for him. Traffic congestion and high parking costs make driving a hassle. Although Amtrak does provide service to Newark, it is limited to 1 to 2 trains a day in each direction. His best rail option is to backtrack from Newark to Wilmington on SEPTA, catch an Amtrak train to Baltimore, and then take the light rail shuttle to Camden Yards. Chris’ father, who lives in Alexandria, VA, sometimes joins him for home games, but this trip is equally inconvenient.

Preferred Alternative: With a new integrated service approach for the NEC, Chris can travel directly on a Metropolitan train from Newark to Baltimore. There, he makes an easy connection to the light rail shuttle to Camden Yards. And with more regular, frequent service, he and his daughter can easily stay for the whole game. It’s also easy now for Chris' father to join him for a game. They meet at Baltimore Penn Station and, on their way, reminisce about when Chris hit his first home run in Little League.



Business Representative

Lives in Port Chester, NY

Travels to airport for international flight

Improvement Highlights:
New Market / Station Frequency Travel Time Reliability Enhanced Service Concept

Judy lives in Port Chester, New York, and travels to London on business each month. Today, her most practical option is to fly from JFK. This means driving to the airport and paying the high parking cost, or an expensive cab ride. While transit options exist, they require multiple connections and long travel times.

Preferred Alternative: With better NEC connections across the New York metropolitan area, Judy now has convenient transit access to both Newark International Airport and JFK. She uses the new Cross Westchester station on the NEC, where she now has a one-seat ride with frequent service to the Newark Airport rail station, as well as faster service into Manhattan to connect to JFK.



Business Manager

Lives in a suburb of Boston, MA

Travels to New York City for business meetings

Improvement Highlights:
New Market / Station Frequency Travel Time Reliability Enhanced Service Concept

Joe lives outside of Boston and regularly travels to New York on business. Today, he either travels by train or plane. He makes this choice depending on when his meeting starts and the train schedule.

Preferred Alternative: With new investment between New York City and Boston that reduces his trip time by 45 minutes, and better maintained infrastructure that improves reliability, Joe is more likely to travel by train. Moreover, the Preferred Alternative provides more train options that allow Joe to get to New York City for his meeting and back home in time for dinner.

Student couple

Amita and Mark

Graduate Students

Live in Stamford, CT

Travel to school and new job in Hartford, CT

Improvement Highlights:
New Market / Station Frequency Travel Time Reliability Enhanced Service Concept

Amita and Mark live in Stamford. They are both graduate students at University of Connecticut - Stamford. Mark is finishing his last semester and is offered the position of his dreams in Hartford. Amita still has another year and a half before she completes her program. The drive from Stamford to Hartford is over an hour each way, but often longer due to I-95 traffic. They are considering living apart while Amita finishes school.

Preferred Alternative: With the upgrades to the Hartford/Springfield Line, including new track and electrification, service is improved to markets between New Haven, CT, and Springfield, MA. Amita and Mark decide to move to New Haven. Mark can commute by train to Hartford in 35 minutes, and Amita's commute to Stamford is also about 30 minutes. They put the money they would have used renting a second apartment towards a down payment on a house.




Lives in Iselin, NJ

Travels to visit daughter in Holyoke, MA

Improvement Highlights:
New Market / Station Frequency Travel Time Reliability Enhanced Service Concept

Ana lives in Iselin, New Jersey and is retired. Her daughter, Marta, lives in Holyoke, MA. Currently it is difficult for Ana to get to Massachusetts to visit Marta. She prefers not to drive long distances, and her best option by public transportation is to take a bus or NJ TRANSIT from the Metropark station to New York City, then take a bus from the Port Authority terminal or a train from Penn Station New York to Springfield, MA, where Marta picks her up. Because of the limited train schedule (only 2 to 3 trains per day that offer a one-seat, direct connection) and fare, she typically chooses the bus. Despite her desire to see Marta, Ana rarely makes this trip.

Preferred Alternative: Now that trains run every half hour from Penn Station New York to Springfield, MA, with greater fare options, Ana chooses to take the train and she visits her daughter more often. She buys a convenient combined ticket for her trip from Metropark to Springfield. She also saves close to an hour each way.




Lives in Fort Meade, MD

Travels home to visit family in Coatesville, PA

Improvement Highlights:
New Market / Station Frequency Travel Time Reliability Enhanced Service Concept

Dawn is a soldier stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland. Prior to her service, she lived in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. On her weekends off, she likes to travel home and visit family and friends. Since she does not own a car, she takes the Fort Meade shuttle to the Odenton rail station, where she catches a MARC train to BWI, followed by an Amtrak train to Philadelphia. She then has a long wait before transferring to the Keystone Corridor service to Coatesville. Although she misses her family and friends dearly, she rarely makes the trip, due to the complicated logistics.

Preferred Alternative: With the new Metropolitan service at the Odenton station, Dawn can take a Metropolitan train direct from Odenton to Philadelphia, where she makes a convenient transfer to the Keystone Corridor service. Her wait time at Philadelphia 30th Street station is now only a few minutes.



Independent Sales Rep

Lives in central New Jersey

Travels to airport for domestic flight

Improvement Highlights:
New Market / Station Frequency Travel Time Reliability Enhanced Service Concept

Tony is an independent sales representative who lives in central New Jersey. He travels throughout the United States to meet with customers. Today, he has a choice to fly from either Newark International Airport or Philadelphia International Airport, and he likes having the option to choose the most economical fare from either airport. He can take a Regional rail train from the Hamilton, NJ, station to the Newark Airport; however he often has a long wait for the train after his flight lands. Coordinating his flight and the train schedule is challenging. However, when he drives to the Philadelphia Airport, he is faced with tremendous congestion on I-95 during peak periods, as well as high parking costs at the airport.

Preferred Alternative: With a new Intercity station at the Philadelphia Airport, Tony now has convenient rail access to either airport from Trenton. The trip time is about a half hour either way. With more regular rail service available from both airports, Tony does not have to look at a train schedule after a long flight home. There will be a train coming every 15-30 minutes throughout the day. He can now choose the lowest airfare without worrying about the connections from the airport to his home.




Lives in Edison, NJ

Travels to New York City daily for work

Improvement Highlights:
New Market / Station Frequency Travel Time Reliability Enhanced Service Concept

Leon lives in Edison, New Jersey and commutes to New York. His train is very crowded and is often delayed. His commute is even more challenging now that he has to pick up his two-year old daughter from day care. He has to build these delays into his schedule, and leave work earlier than he would like.

Preferred Alternative: With the investment in northern New Jersey, including Hunter Flyover and Portal Bridges, two new tunnels under the Hudson River, and improvements at Penn Station New York, Leon's commute becomes more reliable. He also has more frequent trains to choose from, access to express trains, and options for a one-seat ride. He can stay at work a bit longer, knowing that he will not have a long wait between each train, and that he will get to his daughter's day care in time. His boss notices, and he receives a promotion.

Pulse-Hub Animation

This video shows a concept for coordinated train scheduling, known as a "pulse-hub", one of the enhanced service concepts incorporated in the Preferred Alternative. Multiple trains converge on a station, dwell simultaneously for a period of time while passengers transfer between trains, and then depart toward their various destinations. This example shows a potential pulse-hub operation at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station.

This video does not contain sound