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Tier 1 EIS

Alternatives Development

Preferred Alternative


The Preferred Alternative consisted of:

  • A set of geographic markets to be served by passenger rail
  • A Representative Route (or footprint) that connects these markets
  • Assumptions about the level of passenger rail service provided to these markets
  • Infrastructure improvements to support this level of service


The FRA took a market-based approach to develop the Preferred Alternative, first identifying current travel patterns, how they have changed over the past three to four decades, and potential new rail markets.

Specifically for stations, the FRA developed a hierarchy of station types, based on the size of the geographic market and type and quantity of rail service offered. This typology applied to existing stations and future stations included in the No Action Alternative and Preferred Alternative. Stations are grouped based on similar characteristics into one of three categories:

  • MAJOR HUB stations serve the largest markets in the Study Area and have the full complement of rail services types. Major Hub stations serve the four primary markets: Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston, as well as other major markets within the Study Area, including but not limited to Baltimore, MD; Stamford, CT; and Providence, RI.
  • HUB stations offer some Intercity service, although the Intercity-Express service is more limited than the service levels offered at Major Hub stations. Hub stations include the existing smaller intermediate Amtrak stations like New Carrollton, MD; Trenton, NJ; Newark Airport, NJ; and New Rochelle, NY. This category also includes selected key Regional rail stations and new stations that have the potential to fill connectivity gaps in the existing passenger rail network, serve special trip generators, and/or provide important inter-modal connections.
  • LOCAL stations are served almost exclusively by Regional rail trains, on the portions of the NEC where Regional rail service is offered. Examples of local stations include Halethorpe, MD; Claymont, DE; Torresdale, PA; Edison, NJ; Larchmont, NY; Westport, CT; Wickford Jct., RI; and Attleboro, MA.

Representative Route

The Representative Route refers to the physical path (or footprint) of the Preferred Alternative, and is used to assess its potential environmental effects. At the Tier 1 level, the footprint is only representative of where the physical route is located, and is not a prediction of future preferences or decisions. Recognizing the uncertainty that exists at this early stage of planning, the Representative Route provided a sound basis for programmatic evaluation of the environmental effects of the Preferred Alternative.

Service Plan

The FRA developed representative Service Plans for the No Action Alternative and Preferred Alternative to describe the types and levels of passenger train service operating on the NEC in 2040. These Service Plans depicted a representative service pattern for a typical future weekday, and included the train stops by station for both peak and non-peak periods. The representative Service Plans provided a basis for estimating future ridership and capital investment needs and costs, as well as to assess the environmental impacts associated with planned construction and future operations.

For NEC FUTURE, the FRA organized the various types of passenger rail service based on travel distance, travel market, trip purpose, where and how the trains operate, and the service characteristics and amenities offered to passengers.

Infrastructure Elements

The Preferred Alternative used existing and proposed infrastructure to support the operations necessary to grow the role of rail. Infrastructure Elements that made up the Preferred Alternative, as shown on the map, consisted of the following:

  • Chokepoint relief projects — location-specific capital projects to provide relief of train movement congestion and increase railroad capacity at several existing chokepoints
  • New Track — improvements that increase capacity or improve trip times, generally contained within the right-of-way of the existing NEC
  • New Segment — New track construction on new right-of-way that does not follow the existing NEC (The location shown for new segments is illustrative and represents the information used to analyze effects of the new segment as part of the Tier 1 EIS process; the location of new segments will be determined in Tier 2 project studies.)

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