Monday, October 02, 2017

FRA issues Record of Decision for Atlanta to Chattanooga passenger route

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The various alternative routes evaluated in the Tier I EIS. The route colored in purple is the preferred alternative. The various alternative routes evaluated in the Tier I EIS. The route colored in purple is the preferred alternative. Georgia Department of Transportation

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released a Tier I combined Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision (FEIS/ROD) for the High-Speed Ground Transportation (HSGT) project that will ultimately connect Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tenn.

The FEIS/ROD marks the completion of the Tier I environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and documents FRA's identification of a preferred corridor.

"This project will benefit both Atlanta and Chattanooga with more efficient transportation, while also providing rail access to the rural communities in the region," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. "This has been a long time in the making and represents a response to numerous transportation needs along the I-75 corridor."

The HSGT project would run approximately 120 miles along Interstate 75 and provide a competitive and more reliable transportation choice for people traveling between Atlanta and Chattanooga.

The Preferred Corridor Alternative is the I-75 Corridor Alternative, an approximately 1,000-foot wide corridor that begins on the east side of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (HJAIA) at the proposed HJAIA/Southern Crescent Station and end at a proposed downtown Chattanooga station. FRA says the alternative allows for two design options to be further evaluated during additional planning activities and Tier 2 NEPA studies during any subsequent phases of the project.

"This combined FEIS and ROD is a product of nine years' work from FRA and its state partners," said FRA Deputy Administrator Heath Hall. "The administration is working diligently to remove barriers, which slow down the environmental process so that people can get to work rebuilding the nation's infrastructure."

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) studied the corridor as part of Georgia's 1997 Intercity Rail Plan, which recommended further study – specifically with an emphasis on high-speed rail service. During the scoping process of the study, GDOT and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) identified 15 unique corridors between Atlanta and Chattanooga. GDOT and TDOT then subjected those corridors to a screening process and ultimately narrowed down three corridors for the FEIS.

The FEIS/ROD provides information on train technology, maximum operating speeds and station location options. However, decisions on these issues, as well as the exact alignment within the preferred corridor, will be part of a Tier II NEPA study, if additional funding is secured.