The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has published the Draft Environmental Impact Statement review (DEIS) for the Hudson Tunnel Project, completing the review in 14 months from the Federal Register Notice of Initiation.
The DEIS identifies the project’s preferred alternative, which includes constructing a new tunnel, refurbishing the existing ones and preserving the current functionality of the Northeast Corridor’s (NEC) Hudson River rail crossing between New Jersey and New York.
The Project is intended to preserve the current functionality of the Northeast Corridor’s (NEC) Hudson River rail crossing between New Jersey and New York and strengthen the resilience of the NEC.
(Learn More, courtesy of CBS New York and YouTube)
The Project would consist of construction of a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, including railroad infrastructure in New Jersey and New York connecting the new rail tunnel to the existing NEC, and rehabilitation of the existing NEC tunnel beneath the Hudson River.
The existing NEC rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River is known as the North River Tunnel. This tunnel is used by Amtrak for intercity passenger rail service and by NJ TRANSIT for commuter rail service.
The tunnel has two separate tubes, each accommodating a single track for electrically powered trains, and extends approximately 2.5 miles from the tunnel portal in North Bergen, NJ, to Penn Station New York.
Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 damaged the North River Tunnel and today the tunnel remains compromised.
The North River Tunnel is currently safe for use by Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT trains traveling between New Jersey and New York City and beyond.
However, it is in poor condition as a result of the storm damage and has required emergency maintenance that disrupts service for hundreds of thousands of rail passengers throughout the region.
Despite the ongoing maintenance, the damage caused by the storm continues to degrade systems in the tunnel and can only be addressed through a comprehensive reconstruction of the tunnel.
(Learn More, courtesy of CBS New York and YouTube)
To develop the DEIS, the FRA established a federal and state agency task force and obtained federal permits concurrently with the NEPA process.
The Project would rehabilitate the North River Tunnel without disrupting existing levels of train service, and provide redundant capability for rail service crossing the Hudson River.
To perform the needed rehabilitation in the existing North River Tunnel, each tube of the tunnel will need to be closed for more than a year. However, rehabilitation needs to be accomplished without unacceptable reductions in weekday service.
Therefore, the Project would first include construction of a new tunnel with two new rail tubes beneath the Hudson River (the “Hudson Tunnel”) that can maintain the existing level of train service while the damaged tubes in the North River Tunnel are taken out of service one at a time for rehabilitation.
Once the North River Tunnel rehabilitation is complete, both the old and new tunnel will be in service, providing redundant capacity and increased operational flexibility for Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT.
The Final EIS is expected to be issued in March 2018, approximately 22 months after initiation as compared to reviews of this magnitude which have taken more than 40 months to complete, demonstrating the Department’s commitment to streamline the project review process.
Within the DEIS, FRA states that the preferred alternative will meet the purpose and need identified for the Hudson Tunnel Project.
(The federal government will split the projected $20 billion cost for two new commuter tunnels under the Hudson River 50-50 with New York and New Jersey. The tunnels would help avert a commuter catastrophe if one of the existing tunnels needs to be closed for repairs. Courtesy of NJTV News and YouTube. Posted on Nov 12, 2015)
The DEIS notes that the plan includes construction of two new rail tubes in a single tunnel beneath the Hudson River that can maintain the existing level of train service while the North River Tunnel tubes are taken out of service one at a time for rehabilitation.
The DEIS reports that its preferred alternative may cost in the range of $11.7 to $12.98 billion. It will be the responsibility of the project sponsors to identify their funding sources and plan.
The Department notes that all projects that apply for Federal funding must meet the appropriate criteria and that all projects will be individually evaluated on their merits, without prejudice against or partiality in favor of particular projects.
Publication of the DEIS is a milestone in the clearance process for all known environmental impacts before pre-engineering design and construction can begin on the project.
It also initiates a comprehensive public comment period and public hearings before the FRA can finalize the EIS and Record of Decision.
To support that there are three public hearings, with meetings scheduled on August 1st, August 3rd and August 10th.