FRA Releases WUS Expansion SDEIS

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on May 12 released a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) for the Washington Union Station (WUS) Expansion Project as well as a Draft Section 106 National Historic Preservation Act Programmatic Agreement and Draft Section 4(f) of the U.S. Department of Transportation Act Evaluation. The SDEIS “assesses the potential impacts on the human and natural environment of a new Preferred Alternative developed in response to comments on the 2020 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS),” FRA said.

The $8.8 billion WUS expansion “would improve critical rail infrastructure to accommodate increased intercity and commuter rail service into the future,” FRA said. “By reconstructing all tracks and platforms as well as providing new internal circulation space and amenities, the project would accommodate higher levels of train service, supporting Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) through-running trains and complement investments in intercity passenger service on the Northeast Corridor and south of Washington, D.C., including the Long Bridge project.”

In response to comments received on the 2020 DEIS, the new Preferred Alternative (Alternative F) “substantially reduces parking and places it and other vehicle functions including pick-up and drop-off below the tracks,” FRA noted. “By placing vehicles below ground at substantial cost, the Preferred Alternative creates more opportunity for commercial development and public space above the tracks. These and other changes were requested by the District of Columbia and other stakeholders. Reduced parking revenue and an expanded station require new sources of income to maintain and operate the station. FRA looks to the governments of the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and others to become funding partners for the project and to ensure the continued viability of the station.”

Non-profit InfrastructureDC (IDC), in partnership with the District of Columbia Government, has lauched the Union Station Expansion Project Delivery and Governance Study, in which FRA is participating. IDC has convened an Advisory Group composed of representatives from Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, Amtrak, USDOT, FRA, DC Office of Planning (OP) and the District Department of Transportation. The Advisory Group “will provide guidance to the contractors responsible for conducting the study and seek input from regional stakeholders,” IDC noted. “Funded by a grant from OP, the study will provide the framework for project delivery. IDC has engaged a consultant team led by CohnReznick, LLP to work with the Advisory Group on identifying the optimal delivery, financing, and governance mechanisms needed to realize this mega-project. The study is intended to take advantage of the new, historic levels of federal funding for transportation and infrastructure projects. The Union Station Expansion Project advances the District’s efforts to revitalize Downtown DC and the DC Comeback Plan. As the primary portal to Downtown DC, a redeveloped Union Station is essential to the economic vitality of the District and the Region including the mobility of residents, workers, and visitors.”

FRA will accept public comments on the SDEIS through July 6, 2023.

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