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FRA solicits comments on environmental analysis of All Aboard Florida's proposed Orlando-to-West Palm Beach route


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Friday published the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Orlando-to-West Palm Beach segment of All Aboard Florida's proposed passenger-rail system in central and southern Florida.

The DEIS examines four alternatives, including a no-action alternative for the 168-mile proposed alignment between the cities of Orlando and West Palm Beach. The document contains analysis for the first and second phases, and indicates potential impacts on cultural resources, navigation, wetlands, floodplains, biological resources, natural ecological systems and land use, FRA officials said in a press release.

The DEIS represents  a milestone in the clearance process for the project's environmental impacts before pre-engineering, design and construction can begin. Publication of the DEIS kicks off a 75-day comment period on the proposal, a nearly twice as long timeframe as required under federal law.

"Our role is to ensure compliance with federal environmental laws so that communities remain safe and experience as few adverse impacts from this project as possible," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a prepared statement. "That is why we are having a robust comment period to hear from as many people as possible before any other action is taken."

All Aboard Florida has applied for a Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan with the FRA. Although the environmental review process and RRIF loan consideration are separate and distinct processes, the environmental review is required prerequisite for eligibility and consideration of a RRIF loan, according to the FRA.

All Aboard Florida officials believe the DEIS is "consistent" with their view of the project's benefits and impacts.

"The report shows there would be improvements to public safety, air quality and noise associated with the implementation of All Aboard Florida," they said in a prepared statement.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/22/2014