FAQsThank you for your comments and questions on the Susquehanna River Rail Bridge Project. We will incorporate your input, comments, and suggestion into our project studies. To address frequently asked questions, this FAQ page will be updated regularly.
Environmental ProcessWhat is the NEPA process?
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a federal law requiring agencies that receive federal funding to consider the impact the proposed project could have on environmental, cultural, and social resources. For the Susquehanna River Rail Bridge Project, the project team is preparing an environmental assessment (EA) to comply with NEPA. The NEPA EA process includes defining the project’s purpose and need, coordinating with agencies to identify key resources in the area, developing project alternatives, evaluating the potential environmental effects of feasible project alternatives, and documenting the environmental analysis.
Project BackgroundWhy is this project necessary?
There are several issues with the existing Susquehanna River Rail Bridge. The current structure is 110 years old and has an obsolete design and aging infrastructure. The aging bridge will require more scheduled and unscheduled maintenance as time passes. The existing two-track bridge causes a capacity bottleneck and restricts speeds. Accommodating marine traffic along the Susquehanna River requires the existing bridge to be opened manually up to ten times a year, which is labor-intensive and inefficient.
Who is involved in this project?
- Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is serving as the lead federal agency for the NEPA EA.
- Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) is funding this phase of the project (preliminary engineering and environmental studies) through a federal grant.
- Amtrak is the owner of the bridge and adjacent segments of the Northeast Corridor (NEC).
- Federal Transit Administration (FTA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) are cooperating agencies for the EA and will be involved in permitting authorizations at later stages in the project.
Who uses the bridge currently?
Bridge users include Amtrak, MARC, and Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) to carry passenger and freight trains across the Susquehanna River.
Is the bridge safe for travel?
Recent inspections indicate the bridge is structurally safe, although it is nearing the end of its useful life.
Project Funding and ScheduleIs the project funded?
The U.S. Secretary of Transportation selected MDOT for an award of $22 million for the NEPA and preliminary engineering phases. The preliminary engineering efforts include identification of feasible project alternatives. The potential environmental effects of these feasible project alternatives will be evaluated in the EA. The project is currently funded only for the NEPA and preliminary engineering phase. At the present time, the project is not funded for construction.
What happens after this study is completed? What is the project schedule?
After the NEPA phase and preliminary engineering are completed, the project sponsor will seek funding for the next phase, which will include final engineering and securing necessary permits. After that, funding for project construction will be sought. Click here for the current project schedule for the project.
What alternatives are being considered?
In coordination with project stakeholders, regulatory and consulting agencies, and members of the public, the project team has developed and is evaluating various alternatives (click here for more information on alternatives development and screening).
Will a new bridge be constructed higher than the existing bridge? Where will a new bridge be located?
Several project alternatives were evaluated as part of the planning phase of the project. These alternatives varied by a number of factors, including height and alignment (i.e., east or west of the existing bridge). Two alternatives have been retained for study in EA – Alternative 9A and Alternative 9B. Both of these alternatives entail two higher-level fixed bridges.
What field activities are happening?
As part of the Susquehanna River Rail Bridge Project, MDOT and Amtrak conducted in-water and upland geotechnical borings to obtain more information about subsurface conditions. This work was performed in Summer 2015 and was coordinated with the appropriate federal, state, and local officials.
Will the project consider bicycle and pedestrian access across the Susquehanna River?
As part of the public involvement process, MDOT and Amtrak will work with government agencies and interested organizations to coordinate this Susquehanna River Rail Bridge Project with potential bicycle and pedestrian access across the river. MDOT and Amtrak can investigate how bicycle and pedestrian access may be accommodated. Safety, security, design and construction funding, maintenance and liability are important factors to be addressed within any accommodation considered. Transitions from the ends of the bridge to adjacent public Right-of-Ways would be a significant consideration.
Studying Potential Project ImpactsWill noise levels increase, specifically during construction?
While funding for project construction is not currently available, the NEPA EA will study potential noise impacts. The NEPA EA will identify adjacent properties that are susceptible to noise (referred to as Noise Sensitive Receptors) and evaluate what level of impact the project alternatives would have on noise levels in the area. The noise analysis will also document any projected noise impacts during the future construction period.
What impact will this project have on rail operations at the Perryville Station?
While funding for project construction is not currently available, the potential for impacts to rail operations will be studied in the NEPA EA. The Perryville Station will be evaluated for both short-term impacts (i.e., construction impacts, disruption to passengers, etc.) and long-term impacts (i.e., change in train stops at Perryville, changes to rail lines serviced at Perryville, etc.).
Will local facilities, such as Rodgers Tavern, nearby parks, boat launches, and marinas be impacted?
While funding for project construction is not currently available, the potential for impacts to local facilities will be studied in the NEPA EA. One of the intended outcomes of the planning process is to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to environmental resources, whenever feasible. All resources (natural, socioeconomic, cultural) within the project area will be evaluated. Once project alternatives have been developed and impact analyses have been conducted, any potential impacts resulting from the project alternatives will be documented. Measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts will also be documented.
Staying in TouchHow can I stay informed and give input during the planning process?
There are many ways to receive information. The website will be updated regularly. You may also opt into the project mailing list for periodic mailings about project milestones.
You may provide feedback in many ways: