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Tier 1 EIS Alternatives

What's in an Alternative?

The investment program for the No Action and Action Alternatives 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
  • Infrastructure improvements that would support this level of service


The FRA took a market-based approach to develop Action Alternatives, 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 applies to existing stations and future stations included in the No Action and Action Alternatives. 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, as well as 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 of an Action Alternative (or footprint) of an alternative, and is used to assess the potential environmental effects of the Action Alternatives. 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 Routes provide a sound basis for programmatic evaluation of the environmental effects of each Action Alternative.

Service Plan

The FRA developed Service Plans for the No Action and Action Alternatives to describe the types and levels of passenger train service operating on the NEC in 2040. These Service Plans depict a representative train operations pattern for a typical future weekday, and include the train stops by station for both peak and non-peak periods. The Service Plans provide 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.

Diagram of Service Types
  • Intercity-Express — premium intercity high-speed rail service offered on the NEC, making limited stops along the NEC and only serving the largest markets. Intercity-Express service offers the shortest travel times for intercity trips, with a higher quality of onboard amenities, at a premium price, using state-of-the-art high-speed trainsets.
  • Intercity-Corridor — Intercity services that operate both on the NEC and on connecting corridors that reach markets beyond the NEC. These trains provide connectivity and direct one-seat service to large and mid-size markets on the NEC.
  • Metropolitan — Intercity service on the NEC, a subset of Intercity-Corridor service, and the successor to the existing Amtrak Northeast Regional Service. Whereas Intercity-Express service is aimed at the business travel market, Metropolitan trains serve both leisure and business travelers who are more price-sensitive.
  • Intercity-Corridor-Other — Intercity-Corridor service that provides connectivity and direct one-seat service between non-electrified connecting corridors and the large and mid-size markets on the NEC (as opposed to Metropolitan service that can only operate only in electrified territory).
  • Long-Distance — Intercity trains connecting the Study Area with other parts of the United States, generally entailing overnight travel with sleeping car and dining car service and handling checked baggage.
  • Regional Rail — service within a single metropolitan area to local markets. Regional rail trains provide local and commuter-focused service characterized by relatively low fares and a high percentage of regular travelers.

Infrastructure Elements

The Action Alternatives use existing and proposed infrastructure to support the operations necessary to meet market growth and the specific vision of that alternative. Infrastructure Elements that make up the Action Alternatives, as shown on the alternatives maps, consist 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