The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) 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. To develop the DEIS, the FRA established a federal and state agency task force and obtained federal permits concurrently with the NEPA process.
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.
The existing NEC rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River, known as the North River Tunnel, is used by Amtrak for intercity passenger rail service and New Jersey Transit for commuter rail service.
Within the DEIS, FRA states that the preferred alternative will meet the purpose and need identified for the Hudson Tunnel Project. 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. Once the North River Tunnel restoration is complete, both old and new tunnels will be in service, providing redundant capability and increased operational flexibility.
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.