Below are some key Frequently Asked Questions about the Southeast Regional Rail Planning Study that provide more information about the study and its purpose. Click on the question to see the response.
The Southeast Regional Rail Planning Study is a planning study conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to explore the potential for a comprehensive, high-performance passenger rail network in the Southeast region and to create a long-term multi-state vision for intercity connections over the next 40 years. The study will build on the already-established Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor linking the District of Columbia, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina as well as on-going state planning efforts, and other transportation activities in the region.
Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and the District of Columbia are the core study areas. The study may also consider connections in proximity to the core study area, if relevant.
To help develop this Plan, FRA organized a Stakeholder Group, which includes stakeholders from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. In addition, West Virginia and Alabama are also following the progress of the study, given their proximity to the region and the potential for travel demand between core-based statistical area (CBSAs) within those states and the core study area. Other audiences and interested parties, such as relevant freight and passenger railroads as well as business and community groups, and academia, will also be informed of its progress throughout the process. FRA will receive input from the Stakeholder Group and evaluate potential markets, corridors, ridership, and costs as well as governance and/or institutional options that will ultimately feed into the creation of the Southeast Regional Plan.
The Stakeholder Group is comprised of 38 representatives from a variety of key audiences, including state departments of transportation (DOTs), the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), transit operators, railroads and passenger rail operators, elected officials, multimodal authorities, and academia. The bulk of the technical input for the Planning Study, however, will be led by a small group of “lead stakeholders” who represent state transportation agencies from the core study areas (FL, GA, NC, SC, TN, VA, and DC). A list of the lead stakeholders is available here. The ultimate goal is a study published by the FRA with recommendations, but with specific input from the Stakeholder Group.
Interested parties are relevant freight and passenger railroads, transit agencies, local governments, and local metropolitan statistical areas (MPOs), as well as business and community groups that are interested in the Southeast Regional Rail Planning Study. These interested parties will receive periodic updates about the study.
For this study, FRA has taken a market-based approach that reflects the differing needs and characteristics of corridors throughout the nation. This is being done through a three-tiered high-performance passenger rail strategy:
- Core Express services frequent trains: 125-250+ mph in the nation’s densest and most populous regions;
- Regional services service: 90-125 mph between mid-sized and large cities; and
- Feeder services: up to 90 mph connecting mid-side and smaller urban areas with each other or with larger metropolitan areas.
During the 18-month planning process, potential markets, corridors, ridership and costs, as well as governance options, will be identified. Potential network connections, at a conceptual corridor level (not route specific), will be identified along with existing and forecast regional demographic trends and travel patterns, economic activity, freight movement, and noted capacity constraints in the current and future regional transportation network.
The CONceptual NEtwork Connections Tool (CONNECT), originally developed in 2012 as part of the FRA National Planning Study, is a sketch planning tool that estimates the overall performance of user‐defined high performance passenger corridors and networks. CONNECT is intended for use at the very outset of the planning process before detailed alignment and operational plans are developed.
CONNECT enables users to analyze a potential passenger rail network between Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSA’s), develop high‐level service plans, generate operational data, and estimate the financial and operational performance of the network. CONNECT produces ridership, revenue, and operating and capital cost estimates in ranges.
This website at features information about the study, the Stakeholder Group, upcoming meetings, and project updates.
FRA considers this a Tier 0 plan, which is well before corridor specific environmental Tier I and Tier II plans/documents. Although this is outside of the state rail plan (SRP) and service development planning (SDP) process, FRA hopes to engage the states to look at their corridors more strategically and regionally and identify routes and corridors that go beyond the traditional single-state-only process. FRA hopes that this study will identify corridors that could, given the 40-year-long study horizon, be reflected in elements of SRPs that are multi-state in concept and specific SDPs that retain that multi-state composition.