Because the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study is federally funded, the TxDOT must prepare a service-level environmental impact statement (EIS) to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Through the NEPA process, TxDOT will document the impacts, benefits, and costs of proposed passenger rail alternatives compared to a no-build alternative (a no-build alternative provides a baseline for comparison in a future condition where the project being studied is not built, but other planned and funded projects are included).
The service-level EIS will rely on conceptual passenger rail alternatives and will use existing information to document the benefits, impacts, and costs of those alternatives with the intent of learning enough to identify a preferred alternative or more likely, a package of preferred alternatives for different sections of the corridor. Depending on the identified preferred alternatives, more detailed studies may be required under NEPA.
The first step in the EIS process is scoping. During scoping, TxDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) invited the public to provide input about what should be studied in the service-level EIS. Specifically, TxDOT asked for input on the following:
During scoping period, which closed on April 26, 2013, TxDOT accepted public comments in writing (at open houses or through the mail), through this website, and at public meetings held throughout the corridor.
During this time, TxDOT received more than 1,300 comments. The study team is now working to compile all comments into a scoping report. When complete, the scoping report will be posted on this website.
Service-Level Draft EIS
The service-level draft EIS will document the impacts, benefits, and costs of each passenger rail alternative compared to the no-build alternative. The draft EIS will consider a broad range of topics, including natural resources such as fish and wildlife habitat, wetlands, and water quality, as well as community resources such as economic development, land use, and historic properties.
Once the draft EIS is complete, TxDOT and FRA will publish it for public review. The review period will include many ways for the public to provide comments, including at least one public hearing. After the public review period is complete, TxDOT and FRA will agree on a preferred alternative, or a package of preferred alternatives for different sections of the corridor, for passenger rail service in the corridor.
Service-Level Final EIS and Record of Decision (ROD)
Once a preferred alternative is identified, TxDOT will prepare a final EIS that responds to comments received on the draft EIS. It will also include additional detail, such as mitigation measures for unavoidable impacts that might result from the preferred alternative. Once the final EIS is complete, FRA will issue a record of decision (ROD), which codifies the FRA’s concurrence with the service-level NEPA process and paves the way for TxDOT to move forward with project-level activities.
To complete the service-level EIS, a service development plan will also be prepared. This plan will outline the benefits and financial plan for the corridor based on the preferred alternatives. It will prioritize the projects to be developed within the corridor, identify costs, and potential funding sources.