NJT train_Jim Miller Jr.

Photo courtesy of Jim Miller, Jr.


Environmental Review Process 

What is NEPA?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a federal law that requires federal agencies to evaluate the impacts on the human and natural environment of projects they may approve or fund. NEPA aims to ensure that environmental information is available to the public and public officials before decisions are made and actions are taken.

Construction of the Hudson Tunnel Project will involve the use of federal funding administered through the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). The Hudson Tunnel Project has also secured permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Prior to approving funding or issuing permits, federal agencies must consider the environmental effects of the Project in accordance with NEPA. Therefore, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been prepared for the Project. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) served as the lead federal agency for the environmental review, and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), USACE, and any other federal agencies with relevant expertise for the environmental review participated in the review.

Public participation is a critical part of the environmental review process and is required by NEPA. The EIS provides the FRA and GDC, Project partners, and other participating agencies and the public with information about alternatives that meet the Project’s purpose and need, including their environmental impacts and potential avoidance and mitigation measures.

What is the EIS process? 

The process for preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) includes the following steps:

Notice of Intent (NOI). Publication of the NOI in the Federal Register formally announces the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) intent to prepare an EIS for the Hudson Tunnel Project and initiates the environmental review process. This occurred on May 2, 2016.

Scoping. An initial step in the NEPA process, the scoping process provides the public and agencies an opportunity to review and comment on the scope of the EIS including the Project’s purpose and need, alternatives to be studied in the EIS, environmental issues of concern, and the methodologies for the environmental analysis. The Hudson Tunnel Project’s scoping process was conducted in May 2016.

Draft EIS (DEIS). Following scoping, a DEIS is prepared to assess the environmental impacts of the Project consistent with NEPA and other applicable regulations and requirements. For the Hudson Tunnel Project, FRA determined that the DEIS would include a recommendation for a Preferred Alternative. The Preferred Alternative is the alternative that FRA believes best meets the purpose and need identified for the Project, giving consideration to public and stakeholder input as well as economic, environmental, technical and other factors, and therefore represents the alternative that is proposed to be implemented for the Project. The DEIS for the Hudson Tunnel Project was released for public review on June 30, 2017.

Public Review of the DEIS. Once FRA determines that the DEIS is ready for public review, FRA ensures the document is readily available. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register (June 30, 2017) initiating a public comment period for the DEIS. Public hearings were held, during which the FRA received agency and public comments on the DEIS.

Final EIS (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD). After the public comment period on the DEIS concluded, FRA and FTA published a joint FEIS and ROD on May 28, 2021. The FEIS includes a summary of the comments made on the DEIS during the public comment period and responses to those comments, and any necessary revisions to the DEIS to address the comments. The ROD officially documents the selection of the final Preferred Alternative and the measures to be incorporated into the Project that will avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse impacts.

• Post-ROD. Once the FRA and FTA issued its ROD for the Hudson Tunnel Project, other agencies issued their permits and approvals for the Project, the final design advanced, and construction was permitted to begin.

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Section 106 requires that Federal agencies consider the effects of their actions on any properties listed or determined eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. As part of the Section 106 process, FRA and NJ TRANSIT coordinated with New Jersey and New York State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, federally recognized Native American tribes, identified consulting parties, and interested members of the public a reasonable opportunity to comment on the Hudson Tunnel Project and its potential effects. This EIS includes consideration of the Project’s effects in accordance with Section 106 and public comment periods were provided in coordination with the NEPA public comment periods. 

How are input and comments from the public and other stakeholders being collected and incorporated into the EIS process?

Public involvement is an integral part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Accordingly, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), in coordination with NJ TRANSIT, developed a public outreach and agency coordination plan, which was implemented throughout the environmental review process for the Hudson Tunnel Project. This began with scoping and continued through the Record of Decision.

The public involvement plan engaged a number of outreach tools and activities to involve the public. These included a project mailing list to distribute meeting announcements and information on the Project; a Project website with timely information on the EIS process and links to sign up for the mailing list and submit comments; Project fact sheets and newsletter to keep the public informed; local government and stakeholder briefings; public open houses to provide information and solicit feedback at key milestones; and public comment periods at specific NEPA milestones, providing the opportunity to formally submit comments orally or in writing during the scoping period and when the Draft EIS was completed.