nec station development
Transforming Communities One Station at a Time
he Northeast Corridor (NEC) is the busiest passenger rail line in the U.S. To improve access and connectivity, several stations are expanding or being built along the NEC, among them Boston’s South Station and the proposed Pawtucket/Central Falls Station in Rhode Island. Both involve complex planning elements, multiple stakeholders and extensive public outreach. South Station Expansion Boston’s South Station is currently in the planning process to increase capacity, improve connections, promote sustainability and spur economic development. Part of achieving this involves navigating a complex environmental process. The project involves development of both an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) pursuant to Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) requirements, and an Environmental Assessment (EA) pursuant to the National 28 Railway Age // November 2018
By Kristen P. Bergassi, ENV SP, NCICS; and Natasha Velickovic, PE, VHB
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Defining an effective Purpose and Need (P&N) statement is the foundation for developing the range of alternatives required in the NEPA process and selection of a preferred alternative. There was a rare chance to address inadequate capacity for projected passenger rail growth in the Northeast. Defined goals for the expansion included achieving greater regional connectivity and passenger growth from Boston to New York to Washington, improving reliability and capacity as well as the passenger experience, and creating opportunities for development in downtown Boston. One of the most important steps was developing an inclusive outreach plan tailored by project elements. The process began at project onset and continued throughout the environmental review and preliminary design. This continuity was crucial, as it proved the P&N statement was fully representative and defensible throughout the life of the project.
Alternatives analysis is the heart of the NEPA process. Because South Station Expansion included numerous elements that needed separate evaluation, the analysis was broken into five major project elements—station head house, track and platform layout, layover, joint development, and roadway alternatives. The selected alternative for each element was incorporated into a comprehensive Build Alternative, and advanced in the EIR and EA for full environmental evaluation. Another element was managing multiple stakeholder interests. Identifying station users (regional/intercity, commuter, rapid transit and local/neighborhood) was critical due to diverse needs and varying levels of jurisdiction (federal, state, local). It was important to coordinate with stakeholders, but also encoura’ge them to coordinate with each other. A public involvement plan was developed early in the process to outline specific strategies for implementing outreach goals. railwayage.com
Projects headed by women are improving passenger rail along the Northeast Corridor.