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Connecticut is centrally located in a part of the Northeast transportation network that routinely experiences severe traffic congestion and mobility constraints. Highway congestion is projected to grow at a faster pace than the rate at which Connecticut can fund and add highway capacity. Improved rail service offers a safer, greener and healthier alternative to highway travel - one that requires 35 percent less energy per passenger-mile and generates correspondingly lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions.
The NHHS rail corridor serves as a gateway for the communities of central Connecticut, southern and central Massachusetts, and Vermont. It connects the high-speed Northeast Corridor at New Haven with Hartford and Springfield, and provides passenger and freight rail service to Vermont (and eventually Montreal) along the Knowledge and Vermonter Corridors, and to Worcester and Boston along the Inland Route. Stations along the NHHS rail corridor include New Haven, Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks and Springfield. Passenger rail service in this once-robust corridor declined over the latter half of the 20th century; in the 1980s Amtrak removed portions of one of the two NHHS rail corridor tracks, limiting its capacity to no more than the current six to eight daily round-trip passenger trains between New Haven and Springfield (with one continuing to Washington, D.C.) and a single daily round trip between Washington, D.C., via New Haven and Springfield, and St. Albans, Vermont. At New Haven, the corridor connects with Amtrak trains to New York and Boston, as well as commuter rail service operated by Metro-North Railroad to New York City and Connecticut Shore Line East service, operated by Amtrak, to New London, Connecticut (Figure 1-1). In addition, the NHHS rail corridor lies within five miles of Bradley International Airport at Windsor Locks; however, there currently is no shuttle or other connection providing access between Amtrak and the airport (though one is planned). Finally, local freight operators, including the Connecticut Southern, Pan Am, Providence & Worcester and CSX, also operate in the corridor to serve a variety of daily shippers.
Connecticut's State Rail Plan (completed as a draft in August 2010) presents the State's vision for enhanced regional passenger and freight rail service. Improved rail service would encourage greater mobility, decrease highway and aviation congestion, reduce energy use, improve air quality and create jobs, act as a catalyst for smart growth and promote the State's and region's competitive advantage in the global economy. Service enhancement in the NHHS rail corridor is a primary component of the State Rail Plan.
In addition, it has been a long-standing transportation and economic development objective of Connecticut, Vermont, and Massachusetts to significantly increase passenger rail service along the rail corridor extending from New Haven, Connecticut, to Vermont and across Massachusetts. This has been proposed as a means of providing an energy-efficient, environmentally superior transportation alternative to auto travel and the growing automobile congestion on the regional highway system, as well as a means to improve the quality of life, sustainability, and economic vitality of the communities in this region.
The three states, together with Amtrak, developed a 2030 Vision Plan that calls for quadrupling passenger rail service between New Haven and Springfield on the 62-mile-long Amtrak-owned NHHS rail corridor; new service to Vermont along the Springfield-White River Junction Knowledge Corridor and the White River Junction-St. Albans Vermonter Corridor; and increased service between Springfield and Boston along the Inland Route. The plan includes capacity, speed, reliability and safety upgrades to these corridors to significantly increase the number of trains serving the region. Up to 25 daily round-trip trains would operate along the NHHS rail corridor, with many continuing to Vermont and Boston. Also, a bus shuttle connection between the Windsor Locks train station and Bradley International Airport would be added to enhance access to and from the airport. Implementation of the Vision Plan would serve as a catalyst for the rebirth of passenger rail in the region and for local efforts to leverage passenger rail investments that would spark new economic development around stations and in communities served by rail. The Plan also calls for increased freight rail service along these corridors.
FRA has awarded three grants totaling $190.9 million to Connecticut under the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program toward the cost of designing and constructing the NHHS Rail Program improvements. Connecticut has committed an additional $280 million in state bond proceeds to match federal funding for the NHHS Rail Program. Additional funding is required to implement all components of the NHHS Rail Program in Connecticut and Massachusetts. CTDOT and the MASSDOT intend to seek additional federal funding to complete the improvements in their respective states as federal funding becomes available in the future.
In 2010, CTDOT, Amtrak, the FRA, and other stakeholders identified a program of railroad capital improvements between New Haven and Springfield necessary to support the number of trains and travel time objectives included in the 2030 Vision Plan. These improvements comprise the NHHS Rail Program and include installation of double tracks within the railroad track bed, improvements to highway rail at-grade crossings, and construction of high-level platforms at stations. Table 1-1 identifies the improvements included in the NHHS Rail Program, which will cost approximately $650 million to implement. As noted in Table 1-1, the environmental impacts associated with implementation of the improvements between Meriden and Newington (Mileposts 20.3 and 31.1) and between Hartford and Windsor (Mileposts 37.2 and 43.0) already have been reviewed by the FRA, with approved CEs for both segments of the corridor. However, the analysis and conditions described in the CEs are incorporated in this EA/EIE and included as Appendix 1 for reference.
This Environmental Assessment/Environmental Impact Evaluation (EA/EIE) is a Tier 1 Service Level EA which addresses the environmental effects resulting from implementation of the New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield (NHHS) High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Project (the project) proposed by CTDOT, the project sponsor. The purpose of the proposed project is to significantly enhance passenger rail service in the 62-mile-long NHHS rail corridor (described above) that connects central Connecticut, western Massachusetts, and Vermont with the high-speed Northeast Corridor.
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) encourages tiering of environmental impact assessments to eliminate repetitive discussions of issues and, instead, to focus on issues that are ripe for decision-making (49 CFR §§ 1502.20 and 1508.28). Therefore, this Tier 1 EA/EIE addresses broad issues and potential environmental impacts related to implementation of the proposed service improvements, as well as associated capital improvements that have already been well defined. Future Tier 2 Project Level analyses will be prepared for specific project-level activities that are not yet sufficiently defined for impact assessment but will be required to implement the proposed NHHS high-speed intercity passenger service.
This environmental document has been prepared by CTDOT and FRA in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 (42 U.S.C. §§ 4321 et seq.), associated statutes and regulations, FRA's Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts, and the requirements of the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) (Sections 22a-1 through 22a-1h and further defined by Sections 22a-la-1 through 22a-la-12) and thus serves as an Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) under CEPA review. The MassDOT has determined that the work proposed by the NHHS Project in Massachusetts does not trigger any thresholds under Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and, therefore, is not subject to review under MEPA. FTA is a Cooperating Agency for this EA/EIE due to CTDOT anticipating FTA funding for the construction of four future stations and improvements to one existing station along the line.
The NEPA/CEPA process is intended to help public officials make decisions that are based on an understanding of environmental consequences, and take actions that protect, mitigate impacts, restore or enhance the environment (40 CFR § 1500.1). NEPA requires the evaluation of a proposed project to determine if impacts on the environment will be significant. If it is determined through this EA/EIE that no significant impacts would result from the proposed project, a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) may be issued by FRA, which is the lead federal agency. If significant impacts will occur that cannot be mitigated, further environmental review may be required. This EA/EIE is also consistent with FRA's August 13, 2009 guidance on Compliance with NEPA in Implementing the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program, which provided guidance for implementing service-level (Tier 1) NEPA for corridor programs.
This EA/EIE is organized as follows:
The NHHS rail corridor includes 62 miles of existing rail line, owned and operated by Amtrak. Historically, it, included two or more tracks along its entire length, but today consists of just 23.3 miles of double track and 38.7 miles of single track. For purposes of the environmental review documented in this EA, the southern and northern termini of the NHHS rail corridor are, respectively, at Union Station in New Haven, Connecticut, and just east of Springfield Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts (where a layover yard and maintenance facility is being proposed).
In 2002, CTDOT initiated the Commuter Rail Implementation Study (Implementation Study) to analyze alternatives for implementation of new commuter rail service between New Haven and Springfield. In January 2008, CTDOT began work on a draft EA/EIE, pursuant to NEPA and CEPA, to assess the environmental impacts associated with implementation of commuter rail service. The document was completed in January 2010. During its preparation, federal funding for high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail projects was made available through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). As a result, CTDOT shifted its focus from commuter rail to development of a proposal with Amtrak, Massachusetts and Vermont for funding new high-speed passenger rail service across central New England. The three states developed a 2030 Vision for High Speed Intercity, and Regional Rail Service for New England that called for quadrupling passenger rail service between New Haven and Springfield, along with new service to Vermont along the Springfield-White River Junction Knowledge Corridor and the White River Junction-St. Albans Vermonter Corridor and increased service between Springfield and Boston along the Inland Route. Implementation of the Vision Plan would serve as a catalyst for the rebirth of passenger rail in the region and for local efforts to leverage passenger rail investments that would spark new economic development around stations and in communities served by rail.
Between 2009 and 2011, CTDOT applied for federal funding under the HSIPR program to implement the NHHS rail corridor improvements required to support the 2030 Vision Plan. As part of the application process, CTDOT, in cooperation with Massachusetts and Vermont, prepared a Service NEPA Environmental Review Document evaluating impacts resulting from implementation of the 2030 Vision Plan. The states held public meetings on the document in 2010 and the document was submitted to FRA as part of the grant application.
In 2010-2011, FRA awarded three grants totaling $190.9 million to Connecticut toward the cost of designing and constructing the NHHS Rail Program improvements. Connecticut has committed an additional $280 million in state bond proceeds to match federal funding for the NHHS Rail Program. Additional funding is required to implement all components of the NHHS Rail Program in Connecticut and Massachusetts. CTDOT intends to seek additional federal funding to complete the improvements in Connecticut as federal funding becomes available in the future. Further specific capital improvements in Connecticut and Massachusetts will be included in future Tier 2 environmental documentation.
The Project evaluated in this Tier 1 EA comprises significantly enhanced passenger rail service in the NHHS rail corridor, with up to 25 daily round-trip trains (up to 50 one-way trips per day) by 2030 (see Appendix 2, Passenger Service Plan, which details the proposed full-build service plan). Related operational improvements include an increase in the capacity of the line to accommodate additional trains, an increase from a maximum of 80 miles per hour (mph) to a maximum train speed to 110 mph, service to the new FTA-funded regional train stations and reduced scheduled travel times.
The improvements necessary to support this increase in capacity and speed along the NHHS rail corridor comprise the NHHS Rail Program (Table 1-1 and Figure 1-2, and detailed in Section 3.3). Increased capacity is essential to support regional plans to expand the number of Vermonter trains to St. Albans, Vermont (and, eventually, to Montreal), facilitate adding new Knowledge Corridor trains to Greenfield and White River Junction, Vermont, and re-establish and expand service along the Springfield-Boston Inland Route. These improvements will also provide the capacity to support growth in freight service along the NHHS rail corridor and facilitate expanding freight volume and service to new customers.
Most of the necessary capital improvements included in the NHHS Rail Program are well defined and currently under preliminary design by CTDOT. This includes all track, signal at-grade crossing and bridge/culvert improvements, Amtrak-station upgrades in Connecticut (with the exception of long-term improvements to the Hartford Viaduct and Connecticut River Bridge) and at-grade crossing and bridge/culvert improvements in Massachusetts. However, some program elements remain less defined and additional work is required before final alternatives can be selected and evaluated. These include future FTA-funded regional rail station improvements in Connecticut, construction of high-level platforms at the Springfield station, track configuration changes in the Springfield area required to accommodate additional Vermonter/Knowledge Corridor and Inland Route trains, and the siting and construction of a permanent layover and maintenance facility in Springfield. The improvements in Massachusetts are not included in the Connecticut EIE. This Tier 1 Service Level EA evaluates the potential environmental impacts of the proposed passenger rail service enhancement in the NHHS rail corridor and the associated capital improvements to the extent they been defined. The remaining, less well-defined capital improvements have had their overall effects accounted for in this EA and will be evaluated at site-specific detail in subsequent Tier 2 project-level environmental review documents.
|New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail Program|
|Restoration of Double Track||MP 7.1 to 17.0||In this EA/EIE|
|MP 20.3 to 31.1||Included in Phase 1 CE
|Incorporated in this EA/EIE by reference|
|MP 31.1to 35.1||Rehabilitation of existing siding to main line track||In this EA/EIE|
|MP 37.2 to 43.0||Included in Phase 3A CE
|Incorporated in EA/EIE by reference|
|MP 46.7 to 49.0||In this EA/EIE|
|MP 50.4 to 54.8||In this EA/EIE|
|New Passing Sidings||MP 26.6 to 27.8||Not required until 2030||In future Tier 2 EA/EIE|
|MP 37.3 to 38.8||Included in Phase 3A CE [Hartford-Windsor]||Incorporated in this EA/EIE by reference|
|Permanent Layover & Light Maintenance Facility||MP 62.9
(former Armory Street Branch)
|Proposed 6-acre site east of Springfield Station required to support 2030 levels of service, comprising 3-5 layover tracks and 2-bay train maintenance building. Site would be accessed by new 3000-foot-long track extending from Springfield Union Station over Chestnut Street.||Additional site-selection analysis for facility required, followed by evaluation in future Tier 2 environmental documentation|
|Interim Layover & Light Maintenance Facility||Springfield Station (MP 62) and/or Springfield Sweeney Site (MP 61.5)||Layover and maintenance services for interim levels of service prior to 2030 will be performed at the Springfield Station or at the existing Amtrak railroad facility (Sweeney Site). Requires installation of a temporary trailer or small structure as location for crews/employees to report for maintenance and train operations, as well as installation of a 480-volt power supply.||In this EA/EIE|
|35 public crossings||Upgrades include non-mountable median dividers or four-quadrant gates.
Five public at-grade crossings are included in the Phase 3A CE [Hartford-Windsor].
|CE for 5 crossings incorporated in this EA/EIE by reference; other crossings evaluated in this EA/EIE|
|13 private crossings||Upgrades include installation of gates and/or additional signage, as required, to enhance safety.
Four at-grade crossings are included in the Phase 3A CE [Hartford-Windsor].
|CE for 4 crossings incorporated in this EA/EIE by reference; other crossings evaluated in this EA/EIE|
|Repair/Replace Deficient Bridges and Culverts||Corridor-wide
(see Tables 3-2 through 3-4)
|Facility-specific rehabilitation, replacement or removal actions, based on hydraulic analysis, inspection and rating, as required, to determine conditions. 11 bridges and 19 culverts are included in Phase 1 CE [Meriden-Newington] and 7 bridges and 2 culverts are included in Phase 3A CE [Hartford-Windsor].||CE for 18 bridges/21 culverts incorporated in this EA/EIE by reference; 46 bridges and 61 culverts evaluated in this EA/EIE. Cultural Resource impacts and proposed mitigation will be as stipulated in the Programmatic Agreement.|
|Installation of 12 New Interlockings
See Note 2
|MP 7.5, 17.0, 27.0, 28.0, 36.2, 37.2, 39.0, 48.4, 50.5, 58.5, 60.0 61.5||The interlocking at MP 39.0 is included in Phase 3A CE [Hartford-Windsor].||MP 39.0 CE incorporated in this EA/EIE by reference; other interlockings evaluated in this EA/EIE|
|Installation of Signal System, Signal Cable & Positive Train Control||Corridor-wide||Installation/burial of new signal cable between Meriden and Newington is included in Phase 3A CE [Meriden-Newington] and between Hartford and Springfield is included in CE [Hartford-Windsor].||Incorporated in this EA/EIE by reference|
|Station Improvements At Locations Already Served by Amtrak||Wallingford, Meriden, Berlin, Hartford, Windsor, Windsor Locks, Springfield Stations
(see below for details)
|Improvements to or relocation of existing passenger rail platforms for Amtrak intercity service, as well as additional parking and station access. The improvements include installation of two 500-foot-long high-level platforms at the existing station location (unless otherwise noted below), covered by a canopy and connected by a pedestrian overpass, with elevator and stair access. Additional parking, providing a total of 75-300 new and existing parking spaces, will be provided at each station. (Details for each station are described below.)|
|Wallingford||Two alternative sites:
||In this EA/EIE|
|Meriden||Includes construction of a parking structure per conceptual plans.||In this EA/EIE|
|Berlin||Includes new surface parking||In this EA/EIE|
|Hartford||Improvements are limited to addition of a high-level platform and associated work||In this EA/EIE|
|Windsor||Includes construction of a parking structure per conceptual plans.||In this EA/EIE|
|Station Improvements At Locations Already Served by Amtrak (continued)||Windsor Locks||Two alternative station site options, each including improvements to support a bus shuttle connection to Bradley International Airport:
||In this EA/EIE|
Associated track work
|In future Tier 2 environmental documentation|
|Springfield Terminal Area||Additional future operational improvements (crossovers and track connections) to reliably accommodate growth in Inland Route and Knowledge/Vermont Corridor trains||Requires future operations analysis to determine necessary infrastructure improvements||In future Tier 2 environmental documentation|
Source: NHHS Rail Program 2011
"MP" - milepost
Note 1: Including use of a gauntlet track at stations to facilitate wide freight loads.
Note 2: An interlocking is an arrangement of signal apparatus that prevents conflicting movements through an arrangement of tracks such as junctions or crossings.
The NHHS Rail Program has been divided into program phases, each of which has independent utility and operational independence. While the program phases and their respective projects may be implemented separately over a period of years, all are identified in this EA/EIE to provide a comprehensive description of the full NHHS Rail Program (see Table 1-1). Program elements that are already well defined are evaluated in this Tier 1 EA, while those that are not yet sufficiently defined for impact assessment will be evaluated in future Tier 2 environmental review documents. The NHHS Rail Program's phases comprise the following:
Beyond the NHHS Rail Program, significant future investments will be required to support increases in train service to Vermont along the Knowledge and Vermonter Corridors and to Boston on the Inland Corridor as envisioned in the Service NEPA Environmental Review Document. Detailed rail operations determined that the following future investments would be required to support that service:
These projects are not necessary for the currently planned NHHS rail corridor service enhancements and will be advanced as separate projects as necessary. As such, they are not evaluated in this EA/EIE and would need additional environmental documentation in the future when the train service is increased.
Source: CDM Smith, November 2011
*Wallingford and Windsor Locks have two alternative station sites under evaluation.