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Alternatives

Alternatives Development Process

The FRA designed the NEC FUTURE alternatives development process to consider a broad array of future possibilities for the NEC, ranging from the status quo to transformational changes in the way passenger rail service is provided. The three-stage process began with the development of approximately 100 Initial Alternatives, which were then organized into 15 Preliminary Alternatives that represent the broad spectrum of possible approaches to serving existing and new markets in the Study Area.

Initial Alternatives [select to unroll/roll up description]

Developing a list of "Initial Alternatives" was the first step in the Alternatives Development process. Approximately 100 Initial Alternatives were identified covering the spectrum of opportunities to upgrade and expand the NEC, serve existing and new markets, provide better connectivity to other markets, and develop new high-speed rail service. The Initial Alternatives were developed based on the results of a travel market analysis, ideas from previous studies, and comments and suggestions from stakeholders and the public. Many of the alternatives reflect comments received from agencies and the public during the scoping process that took place from June through October 2012. More information about the Initial Alternatives can be found in the Preliminary Alternatives Report.



Preliminary Alternatives Graphic

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During the development of Initial Alternatives, nearly 100 different alternatives were identified, including a variety of possible routes between Washington, D.C. and Boston and different options for serving connecting corridors. View more information about this diagram.

Preliminary Alternatives [select to unroll/roll up description]

The next step was to organize the Initial Alternatives into four program levels that differ by the level and types of rail service they provide to the region. The four program levels support a broad range of options for the role that passenger rail can play on the NEC and across the region, from a lower cost approach focused on the minimum investment required to a transformational vision that includes a second spine designed to support HSR service at speeds up to 220 mph. The following variations were developed within each program level to test key service attributes and dynamics:

  • Program Levels A, B, and C include alternatives to contrast today’s conventional intercity and regional/commuter operating approach and stopping patterns with a more integrated corridor-wide operations planning approach that introduces a new “enhanced” service called Metropolitan. The new service carries both intercity and regional rail passengers on a single train, making more-efficient use of scarce capacity and filling gaps between commuter and intercity markets along the NEC. As capacity grows, this service type would add more frequent stops at a broader mix of stations. Comparing conventional and enhanced operations helps to identify ways to improve service and performance, and to define the most efficient approaches to upgrading the NEC.
  • Program Levels B and C also test three different enhanced-service operating approaches. These are designed to quantify the trade-offs between frequency of service, trip time, and the convenience of one-seat start-to-finish service. Each can then be compared against each other and with conventional service.
  • Program Level D, which adds a Second Spine to the NEC Spine, includes four different Second Spine route options to quantify differences in ridership, travel time, and connectivity to other markets.

Additional summary information on the Preliminary Alternatives is available at the following links:

Preliminary Alternatives Report

Preliminary Alternatives Comparison Graphic

Compare Preliminary Alternatives

Select an alternative number to view details [each interactive Preliminary Alternative contains a route map, description, and key features]:

Program Levels:  A, B, C & D
Alternatives: 1-15

A B C D
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Program Level A — Preliminary Alternative 1

Conventional Operations with Lower-Cost Capacity Improvements

View Alternative Description

Alternative 1 resembles the current NEC operations. Relatively low-cost improvements maintain current service levels and types, with minor upgrades to improve efficiency.

View Key Features

  • Current service mix (intercity, regional/commuter and high-speed services)
  • Relatively low-cost improvements to the existing NEC Spine
  • New trainsets for express service

Program Level A — Preliminary Alternative 2

Conventional Operations with Cost-Effective Capacity Improvements

View Alternative Description

Alternative 2 improves reliability and increases service levels for both intercity and regional/commuter passengers, with service types similar to those currently offered. It upgrades existing infrastructure to a State of Good Repair and eliminates some of the most pressing choke points that currently limit capacity.

View Key Features

  • Current service mix (intercity, regional/commuter and high-speed services)
  • Modest increase in service levels
  • Improvements to address some of the most pressing choke points on existing NEC Spine
  • New trainsets for express service

Program Level A — Preliminary Alternative 3

Enhanced Operations with Cost-Effective Capacity Improvements

View Alternative Description

Alternative 3 improves reliability, increases service levels, and introduces new services on the existing NEC Spine to enhance the mix of services offered today. Enhancements include a new Metropolitan service that provides more frequent operations for longer-distance travel within metropolitan areas, and the potential for coordinated schedules, allowing convenient transfers between services. It upgrades existing infrastructure to a State of Good Repair and eliminates some of the most pressing choke points that currently limit capacity.

View Key Features

  • Enhanced service mix with new Metropolitan service (limited-stop, run-through service for longer-distance trips within broad metropolitan areas)
  • Modest increase in service levels
  • Improvements to address some of the most pressing choke points on existing NEC Spine
  • New trainsets for express service

Program Level B — Preliminary Alternative 4

Conventional Operations with Increased Capacity on Existing NEC Spine

View Alternative Description

Alternative 4 improves reliability and travel time for both intercity and regional/commuter travel. It increases the volume of service, providing more trains of each currently existing type. The performance of the existing NEC Spine is enhanced, with increases in capacity at all significant choke points, improvements in terminal capacity, and additional tracks where necessary.

View Key Features

  • Current service mix (intercity, regional/commuter and high-speed services)
  • Increased service levels
  • Increased capacity at all significant choke points
  • Additional tracks within the existing NEC right of way where necessary to accommodate service

Program Level B — Preliminary Alternative 5

Enhanced Operations with More Frequent Service and Increased Capacity on Existing NEC Spine

View Alternative Description

Alternative 5 improves reliability and travel time for both intercity and regional/commuter travel. It focuses on maximizing train frequency, with coordinated schedules for convenient transfers at hub stations. The performance of the existing NEC Spine is optimized, with increases in capacity at all significant choke points, improvements in terminal capacity, and additional tracks where necessary.

View Key Features

  • Enhanced service mix with higher frequency and more trains to all markets
  • Convenient, well-coordinated transfers at hub stations
  • Increased capacity at all significant choke points
  • Additional tracks within the existing NEC right of way where necessary to accommodate service

Program Level B — Preliminary Alternative 6

Enhanced Operations with Higher Speed Service and Increased Capacity on Existing NEC Spine

View Alternative Description

Alternative 6 improves reliability and travel time for both intercity and regional/commuter travel, with a focus on travel time reductions between major intercity markets. It emphasizes express services with convenient transfers at express hub stations. The performance of the existing NEC Spine is optimized, with increases in capacity at all significant choke points, improvements in terminal capacity, and additional tracks where necessary.

View Key Features

  • Enhanced service mix with reduced trip time between key markets
  • More express services and faster connections from intermediate stations and connecting corridors
  • Convenient, well-coordinated transfers at express hub stations
  • Increased capacity at all significant choke points

Program Level B — Preliminary Alternative 7

Enhanced Operations with More One-Seat Rides and Increased Capacity on Existing NEC Spine

View Alternative Description

Alternative 7 improves reliability and travel time for both intercity and regional/commuter travel, with a focus on providing more one-seat rides (direct service) both on and off the NEC Spine. The performance of the existing NEC Spine is optimized, with increases in capacity at all significant choke points, improvements in terminal capacity, and additional tracks where necessary.

View Key Features

  • Enhanced service mix with more one-seat ride options on and off the NEC Spine
  • More choices of direct service to various destinations
  • Increased service to connecting corridors, including run-through services
  • Increased capacity at all significant choke points
  • Additional tracks within the existing NEC right of way where necessary to accommodate service

Program Level C — Preliminary Alternative 8

Conventional Operations with Partial New Alignments Parallel to NEC

View Alternative Description

Alternative 8 provides a major increase in service to all markets on the existing NEC Spine and expands service to connecting corridors. Targeted investments include a partial new alignment parallel to the NEC.

View Key Features

  • Current service mix (intercity, regional/commuter and high-speed services)
  • Major increase in service to existing markets and connecting corridors
  • Targeted expansion of the existing NEC Spine to provide robust regional services
  • Potential for new routing via downtown Baltimore and Center City Philadelphia

Program Level C — Preliminary Alternative 9

Enhanced Operations with More Frequent Service and Partial New Alignments Parallel to NEC

View Alternative Description

Alternative 9 provides a major increase in service to all markets on the existing NEC Spine and expands service to connecting corridors. It focuses on maximizing train frequency, with coordinated schedules for convenient transfers at hub stations. Targeted investments include a partial new alignment parallel to the NEC.

View Key Features

  • Enhanced service mix with more trains to all markets
  • Convenient, well-coordinated transfers at hub stations
  • Targeted expansion of existing NEC Spine to increase train frequency and provide robust regional services
  • Potential for new routing via downtown Baltimore and Center City Philadelphia

Program Level C — Preliminary Alternative 10

Enhanced Operations with Higher Speed Service and Partial New Alignments Parallel to NEC

View Alternative Description

Alternative 10 provides a major increase in service to all markets on the existing NEC Spine and expands service to connecting corridors. It focuses on travel time reductions between major intercity markets, with higher speed express services and convenient transfers at express hub stations. Targeted investments include a partial new alignment parallel to the NEC.

View Key Features

  • Enhanced service mix with reduced trip time between key markets
  • Convenient, well-coordinated transfers at express hub stations
  • Targeted expansion of the existing NEC Spine to reduce trip time between major markets and provide robust regional services
  • Potential for new routing via downtown Baltimore and Center City Philadelphia

Program Level C — Preliminary Alternative 11

Enhanced Operations with More One-Seat Rides and Partial New Alignments Parallel to NEC

View Alternative Description

Alternative 11 provides a major increase in service to all markets on the existing NEC Spine and significantly expands service to connecting corridors. It focuses on providing more one-seat rides(direct service) both on and off the NEC Spine. Targeted investments include a partial new alignment parallel to the NEC.

View Key Features

  • Enhanced service mix with more one-seat ride options on and off the NEC Spine
  • More choices of direct service to various destinations
  • Increased opportunity for connecting services throughout the corridor, including run-through services
  • Targeted expansion of the existing NEC Spine to increase opportunity for one-seat rides to more destinations and provide robust regional services
  • Potential for new routing via downtown Baltimore and Center City Philadelphia

Program Level D — Preliminary Alternative 12

Enhanced Operations with Second NEC Spine Parallel to Existing NEC

View Alternative Description

Alternative 12 provides a major increase in the amount, quality and variety of service offered on the NEC, including reduced trip time between many points on and off-corridor. A second spine would be built generally parallel to the existing NEC Spine, allowing for high-speed rail and robust intercity and regional services.

View Key Features

  • Dedicated high-speed rail and robust intercity and regional services
  • Full-length new alignment parallel to existing NEC Spine
  • Express routing via downtown Baltimore and Center City Philadelphia
  • Improvements to existing NEC Spine to optimize service for continuing operations

Program Level D — Preliminary Alternative 13

Enhanced Operations with Second NEC Spine via Danbury-Hartford-Providence

View Alternative Description

Alternative 13 provides a major increase in the amount, quality and variety of service offered on the NEC, including reduced trip time between many points on and off-corridor. A second spine would be built with an off-corridor segment from north of New York to Providence, serving new markets in central Connecticut and allowing for high-speed rail and robust intercity and regional services.

View Key Features

  • Dedicated high-speed rail and robust intercity and regional services
  • Second NEC Spine with off-corridor segment from north of New York to Providence via Danbury and Hartford
  • Express routing via downtown Baltimore and Center City Philadelphia
  • Improvements to existing NEC Spine to optimize service for continuing operations

Program Level D — Preliminary Alternative 14

Enhanced Operations with Second NEC Spine via Suffolk County-Hartford-Worcester

View Alternative Description

Alternative 14 provides a major increase in the amount, quality and variety of service offered on the NEC, including reduced trip time between many points on and off-corridor. A second spine would be built with an off-corridor segment from New York to Boston via Long Island, New Haven, Hartford and Worcester, allowing for high-speed rail and robust intercity and regional services.

View Key Features

  • Dedicated high-speed rail and robust intercity and regional services
  • Second NEC Spine with off-corridor segment from New York to Boston via Suffolk County (Long Island), Hartford and Worcester
  • Express routing via downtown Baltimore and Center City Philadelphia
  • Improvements to existing NEC Spine to optimize service for continuing operations

Program Level D — Preliminary Alternative 15

Enhanced Operations with Second NEC Spine via Delmarva and Nassau-Stamford-Springfield-Worcester

View Alternative Description

Alternative 15 provides a major increase in the amount, quality and variety of service offered on the NEC, including reduced trip time between many points on and off-corridor. A second spine would be built with two off-corridor segments, allowing for high-speed rail and robust intercity and regional services. Off-corridor segments would include a new route between Washington, D.C. and Wilmington via Annapolis, and a new route between New York and Boston via Long Island, Stamford, Danbury, Hartford, Springfield and Worcester.

View Key Features

  • Dedicated high-speed rail and robust intercity and regional services
  • Second NEC Spine with off-corridor segments from Washington, D.C. to Wilmington via the Delmarva Peninsula and from New York to Boston via Nassau County (Long Island), Stamford, Danbury, Hartford, Springfield and Worcester
  • Express routing via Center City Philadelphia
  • Improvements to existing NEC Spine to optimize service for continuing operations
Alternative A 1

Tier 1 EIS Alternatives [select to unroll/roll up description]

In the final step of the alternatives development process, the FRA evaluated the 15 Preliminary Alternatives by comparing them to understand whether and how each met the Purpose and Need, and analyzing their benefits in terms of ridership, travel time, and service quality. The results are described in the Preliminary Alternatives Evaluation Report. Based on the evaluation of the Preliminary Alternatives, three Action Alternatives were identified for detailed analysis in the Tier 1 Draft EIS.

Based on these findings, public input, and extensive consultation with stakeholders, the FRA repackaged the 15 Preliminary Alternatives into three distinct Action Alternatives. A No Action Alternative was also defined to establish a baseline for comparative purposes. Each Tier 1 EIS Alternative consists 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 that will be provided to these markets; and infrastructure improvements that support this level of service.

The FRA further refined the No Action and Action Alternatives by adjusting and refining service and infrastructure needs based on input gained from over 200 meetings with stakeholders, including the NEC railroads; federal, state, and regional agencies; and other interested organizations and individuals. This refinement process is described in more detail in the Tier 1 EIS Alternatives Report. For more information and an interactive comparison of the alternatives, refer to the Tier 1 EIS Alternatives Page.