Extending the range of higher-speed passenger rail
North Carolina Dept. of Transportation / Richmond, Virginia to Raleigh, North Carolina
High-speed rail service along the Northeast Corridor allows passengers to travel quickly and safely between Boston and Washington, DC. The proposed Southeast Rail Corridor seeks to extend that service from Washington to Atlanta and Jacksonville. The modernized corridor is not expected to be available to passengers any sooner than 2018.
The S line of CSX Transportation, running for 163 miles from Richmond to Raleigh, is a key link in the proposed route. Because the S line has relatively little freight traffic and Amtrak trains use a different CSX line, it is possible to straighten curves and make other improvements on the S line while minimizing impacts to current service.
In 2002, the Tier I Final Environmental Impact Statement outlined a case for routing the Southeast Corridor along the S line from Richmond to Raleigh. In 2004, Mott MacDonald was retained to help provide designs for the analysis for the Tier II Environmental Impact Statement required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
We worked closely with the NEPA planner to ensure that environmental and human impacts were minimized, and completed the preliminary design for the alternative judged to be least damaging. We prepared conventional and nonconventional designs to separate rail and road traffic, recommending the closure of at-grade crossings and the creation of about 100 grade separations.
As part of this process, Mott MacDonald used software such as Synchro, SimTraffic, and Sidra to prepare in-depth traffic analysis for the redistribution of traffic for road closures. Our engineers coordinated the proposed improvements with federal, state, and local agencies, town and city officials, property owners, and special interest groups. Improvements were revised where appropriate.
“Connecting Raleigh and Richmond on the CSXT S-Line Corridor,” the NCDOT has stated, “would improve safety, mobility and connectivity for rail passengers and freight in the Southeastern United States and provide alternatives to highway congestion on I-85 and I-95.”
According to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the project is an investment in cleaner air and reduced greenhouse gases. “Clean, efficient travel options help us cut dangerous amounts of pollution from our skies, lowering the risk of health threats and cutting the cost of medical bills. In short, high-speed rail is an investment in us and our communities.”