The U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT)’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) signed the Record of Decision (ROD) for Phase II of the All Aboard Florida (AAF)/Brightline Project and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement review (DEIS) for the Texas Central Railway (TCR) High-Speed Rail Project, marking major milestones in US DOT’s efforts to accelerate environmental reviews and project delivery timelines for new infrastructure projects. These steps will assist the private sponsors of these new passenger rail projects in moving their projects forward.
“Safe, accessible and efficient regional rail systems are an important component in the transportation networks of many areas,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said. “As proposed, these rail projects would increase travel options and promote economic growth in their regions of the country.”
Specific information regarding each of the projects is below.
All Aboard Florida/Brightline Project
AAF is a private passenger rail service proposed by Florida East Coast Industries, Inc. (FECI) that would connect Orlando and Miami, with intervening stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
The ROD marks the completion of the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
In the ROD, FRA formally selects Alternative E as its preferred alternative as it will meet the purpose and need identified for the AAF/Brightline Project. This preferred alternative consists of:
A new rail corridor extending north through Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Florida State Route 528 (the MCO Segment);
A new rail alignment 200 feet south of the Florida State Route 528 Right of Way (ROW) (the East‐West Corridor) from MCO to Florida State Route 520; and then within the State Route 528 Florida Department of Transportation ROW to the Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) Corridor in Cocoa;
Use of the existing FECR ROW from Cocoa to West Palm Beach (the North-South Corridor).
Texas Central Railway High-Speed Rail Project
The TCR High-Speed Rail Project is a privately-funded proposed new passenger rail system that would operate within a fully sealed corridor of roughly 240 miles between Dallas and Houston, with a travel time of approximately 90 minutes.
Publication of the DEIS is an important milestone in the NEPA process. The DEIS describes the project’s purpose and need, identifies the reasonable alternatives to the proposed action, discloses the potential environmental impacts of those alternatives, and identifies appropriate mitigation. FRA is providing the public an opportunity to review and comment on the DEIS. Following the public comment period, FRA will address any substantive comment in a Final EIS and ROD.
The DEIS analyzed six end-to-end Build Alternatives as well as the No-Build Alternative. The Build Alternatives included a terminal station in Dallas and an intermediate station in Grimes County near College Station, home of Texas A&M University. The DEIS also evaluated three Houston terminal station options: the Industrial Site Terminal, the Northwest Mall Terminal, and the Northwest Transit Center Terminal. The DEIS identifies FRA’s preferred Build Alternative as Alternative A.