Environmental Impact Assessment of Rail Infrastructure in Illinois

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Ning Ai




USDOT-National University Rail (NURail) Center Consortium


Dr. Ning Ai, Marcella Bondie, Anthony Grande




Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), proposed rail projects are subject to a lengthy and expensive environmental evaluation process. Sponsored by the USDOT-National University Rail (NURail) Center Consortium, this study aims to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of environmental impact assessment of rail infrastructure by providing a system view of sustainability and a one-stop rail planning database.


Specifically, this study has developed an integrated tool that incorporates key metrics to assess the environmental, ecological, economic and social impacts of rail transportation in a Geographic Information System (GIS) framework.



Compared to existing studies and databases with similar objectives, this study is particularly informative and timely for two principal reasons.

First, it has incorporated state-of-the-art academic research findings as well as legislation and government guidelines in a comprehensive “Sustainable Rail Scorecard” that covers the efficiency, safety, public health, ecological stress, emissions, and socioeconomic impacts. The Scorecard evaluation can be conducted using a tiered approach that specifies meeting minimum regulatory requirements or a "best practice” sustainable alternative.


Second, this study simulates and visualizes the potential environmental impacts of proposed rail infrastructure at a refined geographical scale (e.g., the vicinity of grade crossings), based on the speed, traffic volume, and occupancy of the rail transport system. Connecting environmental impacts with neighborhood background information, such as land uses, demographic characteristics, and environmental quality, this study identifies high priority and sensitive areas for sustainable rail planning and management in the Chicago metropolitan region.


Expected Results and Products:

Participants will learn about the latest development in sustainability metrics for rail projects and factors that affect community-specific environmental impact assessments. Professional participants may adapt elements of the Sustainable Rail Scorecard to perform in-house sustainability assessments of rail projects.


Contact Information:
Dr. Ning Ai
Urban Transportation Center
Telephone: 312-413-7568
Email: ain@uic.edu
Urban Transportation Center
University of Illinois at Chicago
412 South Peoria St,
Chicago IL 60607
Telephone: 312 996 4820
Fax: 312 413 0006


Website: http://www.utc.uic.edu/