Southeast High Speed Rail

Study Overview and Goals

The Federal Railroad Administration, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation in September 2015 completed the Southeast High-Speed Rail Tier II Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) Raleigh to Richmond study. (Download the signed study and appendices.)

The appendix includes a draft process Programmatic Agreement under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act for public review. The Programmatic Agreement outlines roles and procedures for addressing potential impacts to historic properties for projects undertaken within the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor.

Public Comment on Tier II Study

A notice of availability for the Tier II FEIS was published in the Federal Register on September 18, 2015.  Comments received on the document will be addressed in the Record of Decision (ROD), which is anticipated to be completed in January 2016.

About the Study

The study covers the 163-mile CSXT S-Line rail corridor from Raleigh to Richmond and is a critical segment of the federally designated Southeast Corridor. The Washington, D.C., to Charlotte, N.C., Southeast Corridor route was selected by a 2002 Tier I study, which also established the purpose and need for the project as well as the vision for passenger rail service on the corridor.

Subsequent Tier II studies are required by law, transition the corridor segments from vision to location-specific alternatives and recommend the best design and location for the required investments.

The Tier II Final Environmental Impact Statement Raleigh to Richmond study is the result of a detailed environmental planning process, which included exhaustive field research, valuable background studies, compilation of costs and impacts on the human and natural environment and validation of the project purpose and need.

NCDOT and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation can seek funding for final design, right-of-way, construction and implementation of service.

Why is This Study Important?

Connecting Raleigh and Richmond on the CSXT S-Line Corridor 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.

In terms of economic development, linking business centers in the corridor is an important theme in the study. Rail development also encourages increasing density around station stops in addition to longer distance commuter alternatives, thereby lessening the growth in highway demand. It also provides a transportation alternative for those who cannot or choose not to drive.

The completion of the Tier II Final Environmental Impact Statement Raleigh to Richmond study and preliminary design process will put the corridor on a firm footing to apply for federal funding or public-private partnerships should either become available and matching state funds can be identified.

Supporting a Growing Population and Economic Development

The Triangle region is growing rapidly with an increase in population of 43 percent since 2001. The Richmond area has more than 1.3 million people and is the 44th largest metro area in the country. Linking these two vibrant capitals and providing linkages to Washington, D.C., and passenger rail in the Northeast Corridor is an important step forward for increased accessibility to alternative modes of transportation on the east coast. With competitive door-to-door travel times, high performance rail can be an attractive travel alternative. The Northeast Corridor currently captures between 52 percent and 70 percent of the air/rail market share in the northeast. The Southeast Corridor Raleigh to Richmond ridership/revenue studies indicate that increased access and lower travel times will demonstrate positive operating and maintenance revenues in the studied horizon.

Travel Demand Forecasting

The Tier I Study ridership and revenue forecasts for the corridor were re-examined in Tier II and anticipate that fares collected will cover all operations and maintenance costs for high-performance rail travel in the corridor.

The Importance of Preserving Corridors

As with all major transportation projects, corridor preservation is crucial to ensuring that important projects are able to follow the most desirable route with minimal capital, environmental and social costs. This proposed Raleigh to Richmond project follows the former Seaboard Air Line Railroad corridor, while making alignment revisions to accommodate 21st Century speeds, safety and travel times. It is essential to preserve the S-Line corridor in order to protect this key section of the Southeast Corridor until construction begins, without disregarding any federal approval processes or requirements.

A Vision for Future Improvements

The Tiered Environmental Impact Statement process discloses the ultimate build-out scenario for higher speed rail service in the Southeast Corridor. Since its initial designation, the corridor has been extended to link to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Extending the corridor southward to Jacksonville, Fla., has also been approved, and the Charlotte to Atlanta section of the Southeast Corridor is being evaluated in a Tier I study (2015).

Ensuring Public Safety

The Tier II Final Environmental Impact Statement Raleigh to Richmond study is designed with current state-of-the-industry rail design standards to ensure the safety of the traveling public and to allow passenger and freight service to share the corridor. Along with air, rail travel is a very safe mode of travel.

Supporting Documents

The Tier II Environmental Impact Statement Raleigh to Richmond study has produced a series of valuable resources in the form of supporting documents, available for download.

Study Report

The Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor Tier II Draft Environmental Impact Statement was published in 2010, and the recommendation report was issued in 2012. The Final Tier II Environmental Impact Statement Raleigh to Richmond was signed in September 2015, with a Record of Decision, documenting the FRA’s approval, to follow.

Community Involvement

Public Involvement

Public meetings and hearings were held throughout the Washington, D.C., to Charlotte, N.C., corridor during the Tier I process, and the input was incorporated into study recommendations.

Likewise, during the Tier II Environmental Impact Statement process for Raleigh to Richmond, public and environmental agency meetings and hearings were held to inform the public and resource agencies of the process by which a recommended corridor alignment was selected. Design public hearings for the Tier II are anticipated throughout the Raleigh to Richmond corridor later in Spring 2016.

Stakeholder Involvement

Key stakeholders, including elected officials, organizations and various agencies interested in shaping the future corridor have been involved throughout the process and provided their input.

Corridor Study Reports and Maps

The following documents are found on the Rail Division Resources page, which is located on Connect NCDOT, NCDOT's business partner resources site.

  • Tier II Draft Environmental Impact Statement (May 2010)

Contact Information

Marc L. Hamel
Rail Project Development Manager

Send a message
(919) 707-4705

NCDOT Rail Division
1553 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1553

Resources for Local Property Owners

Although the N.C. Department of Transportation works to minimize the number of homes and businesses displaced by a road project, it is inevitable, in many cases, that a certain amount of private property is needed. The following information explains right of way acquisition and answers questions about the process.