These notes were provided to me by JDLand reader BJ. I was not at the meeting, so can't vouch for all contents herein, but I still wanted to share them.
CSX Project Name and Number: CFP 11.34 - Virginia Avenue Tunnel Reconstruction
Stephen Flippin (email@example.com), Director of Federal Affairs at CSX, presented the information regarding this proposed project.
More information regarding the project is available at www.nationalgateway.org. CSX said it is attempting to add more detailed maps, including a map of its plans regarding the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, to that website.
Current use of the tunnel:
28-32 freight trains use this tunnel daily. Their operations are 24 hours a day.
The traffic is intermodal freight for large box stores (Walmart, Home Depot, etc). No TIH or DIH hazmat has been carried in this tunnel since 2001 per an agreement between CSX and DC. There are no plans to change that.
Purpose of the CSX Project:
The tunnel is currently approximately 18 1/2 feet tall and has a single usable track. The project would increase the height of the tunnel to 21 feet to accommodate double-stacked intermodal freight containers and allow for the use of the second track that is already in place.
The result of the project would be fewer trains using the tracks in the short term (because the capacity of each train would be doubled) and it would free up bottlenecks in both freight and passenger rail traffic that result when trains need to be held before the tunnel because a double track feeds into the tunnel.
Following the widening of the Panama Canal (expected to be completed in 2015), freight carried by boats and then trains is expected to increase and this project would provide additional room for expanded use of the tracks (both with double stacked trains and two tracks).
Timing of the Project:
CSX is awaiting a response to a request for a federal grant. It expects to receive a response in January 2010.
If CSX receives the grant, it expects to begin construction no later than 2011.
If CSX does not receive the grant, it expects to begin no later than 2013.
CSX would like to complete the project by the 2015 completion of the widening of the Panama Canal.
A committee member noted that DC is currently planning (or has already started) a project that diverts traffic onto Virginia Avenue and so the projects cannot be completed simultaneously.
When CSX begins the project, it will close each cross street (one at a time, eg, 3rd will be closed, then 4th, etc) for approximately 1-1.5 weeks. CSX will remove the asphalt, open an excavation tunnel and replace the asphalt at the same grade with an opening next to the asphalt in which CSX will be working to reconstruct the Virginia Avenue tunnel. The asphalt will cover only the cross streets and the entirety of Virginia Avenue (from 2nd St to 12th St) will be removed during construction. Construction will be done 7 am to 7 pm per DC ordinance. CSX has not decided on whether or not construction will take place on Saturday.
Preparation to be done by CSX for the project:
Traffic study: to be completed by the end of November. The council requested that CSX return to discuss the results of the traffic study with the community. CSX indicated that they do plan to have a meeting to address any concerns with the results of that study.
Utility relocation: CSX will coordinate with local utilities to relocate any utilities that will be affected by the reconstruction of the tunnel.
NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) studies: NEPA studies have not been started yet, but CSX has engaged environmental consultants to conduct the necessary studies, which will include noise impact studies (if required by the District of Columbia). Council requested that CSX and its consultants return following the scoping portion of the studies, which would determine the issues to be included in the studies. The councilmember indicated that returning to discuss the scoping would allow CSX to cover the issues that community members may otherwise raise at a later date and delay the project further.
CSX discussed some of the issues with alternative ways to conduct this project:
CSX cannot dig lower as an alternative to raising the roof because of three issues:
Grade: the tracks must be at a certain grade to allow the trains to easily pass through the tunnel and continue on the tracks above.
Utilities: they are buried below the tracks.
Water: if CSX digs too low, it will run into problems with water and flooding.
CSX will not complete the project in sections rather than in one piece.
If the project is completed in segments, it will take 5-8 years rather than 2-3. DC has indicated to CSX that it would prefer the project be done in one piece.
Several community members requested urged CSX to reconsider doing the project in segments so that it would not affect every community member near or along Virginia Avenue for the entirety of the project.
CSX Funding/Budgeting for the Project:
CSX expects the project to be fully funded, with a combination of public grants and its own funding, prior to starting this project. CSX did not indicate whether or not it would seek debt financing.
CSX indicated that it has not set aside a specific amount for community improvement projects to be done by CSX following the completion of this project, but that it has planned several projects and is working with community groups on those issues already.
CSX noted that there are two meetings on November 17 (8:30 am and 7 pm) to address some of the issues that community groups have with this project. A councilmember noted that these meetings are one part of larger community meetings.