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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the states of North Carolina and Virginia on Friday announced that they had signed off on the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for the proposed high-speed rail line between Richmond, Va., and Raleigh, N.C.Their approval of the document marks one of the last steps before construction can begin, although funding still must be secured, according to a press release from the FRA. "Without a strong passenger rail system, the Southeast's growth will be choked by congestion for a very long time," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. "North Carolina, Virginia and the Department of Transportation have worked together to bring us closer to high-speed rail connecting Richmond and Raleigh, and I urge everyone involved to continue pushing this effort forward. High-speed rail in this region is not a luxury but a necessity."Planned to be free from grade crossings between tracks and roads, the 162-mile route would utilize existing rail lines for approximately 60 percent of the route, FRA officials said.In July, Foxx announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) would invest about $1 million to develop a regional long-term vision for the corridor and help form a governance organization to sustain planning efforts for the project. According to the USDOT's Beyond Traffic report, the United States will grow by 70 million people by 2045, and southeastern states are expected to absorb a significant portion of that growth.
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