NEC FUTURE is a comprehensive planning effort to define, evaluate and prioritize future investments in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), launched by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in February 2012. FRA's work will include new ideas and approaches to grow the region's intercity, commuter and freight rail services and an environmental evaluation of proposed transportation alternatives.
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 Boston's South Station in the north, New York's Pennsylvania Station in the center, and Washington's Union Station in the south—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 259 million passengers and 14 million car-miles of freight per year.
While improvements continue to be made, the NEC faces serious challenges, with century-old infrastructure, outdated technology, and inadequate capacity to meet current or projected travel demand. With similar capacity issues on the region's highways, and some of the most congested airports in the nation, the Northeast's economic future could be hampered by transportation constraints.
Responding to these pressing issues, the FRA has initiated a comprehensive planning process for future investment in the corridor through 2040. The NEC FUTURE program includes both a Service Development Plan (SDP) and a broad environmental analysis known as a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS. These studies will help provide a road map to a better transportation solution for the Northeast.
NEC FUTURE will create a framework for the future investments needed to improve passenger rail capacity and service through 2040. Technical work includes an analysis of market conditions in the corridor, development of reasonable program alternatives and an evaluation of the environmental impacts of those alternatives, and a recommended approach that balances the needs of various users of the corridor - whether commuters, intercity rail passengers, or rail freight - in a manner that ensures safe, efficient travel throughout the Northeast.
Yet NEC FUTURE is not only a technical process. Equally important is the opportunity for a broad public dialogue to establish a future vision for the corridor. By bringing together numerous stakeholders from the corridor's eight states and the District of Columbia, the planning process is structured to help foster a broad agreement on future directions for corridor investment.