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The folks at CSX led a few local bloggers on a little tour late this afternoon along the footprint of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, between New Jersey Avenue and 12th Street, SE, to give us a feel for the scope of the upcoming work to widen (and deepen) the tunnel to allow for double tracking and double-stacked railcars.
There isn't really any news to report--it wasn't a shock that there weren't any sudden outbursts of information about noise and dust abatement, traffic measures, access to the houses in the 300 block of Virginia Avenue, or anything along those lines, because CSX is holding all of its cards veeeeeeery close to its corporate vest until the NEPA process gets underway. They are expecting that their actual plans will go out for public comment sometime in the November-December timeframe, if all goes according to schedule. That said, here are a few items worth passing along (some of which I may have posted before but are worth repeating). But keep in mind that this is all still preliminary, the exact alignment won't be known until the design/build and NEPA process are completed, yadda yadda yadda.
* If you stand on the bridge over the train tracks at New Jersey Avenue and look eastward toward the mouth of the tunnel at Second Street (seen at right), you can envision the beginning of the parallel track that will run first between the pillars of the SE Freeway, then in an open trench all the way to 12th Street while they're widening the existing tunnel. The new tunnel will expand four feet on either side of the current alignment, and the open trench will be dug on a line that extends about 19 feet south from the new wider footprint. They are working with the owner of the Charley Horse Stables just to the south of the train tracks to see how her operations can be handled during the estimated three-year construction time.
* The temporary trench will run along the south side of Virginia Avenue on a line that will include most of the sidewalk and grass in front of 225 Virginia Avenue (right up to where the in-ground grates are, at which point the trench will shift northward toward the freeway somewhat). There will be coordination between CSX and StonebridgeCarras, who will be working on the reconstruction of 225 Virginia at the same time.
* Then, if you stand just south of the intersection at Fourth and Virginia and look west, there is a lamp post a few feet south of the stop sign in that spot--the edge of the trench will be about 9 feet south of that lamp post, which means the trench will be very close to the first house on Fourth, but gets farther from the houses in the 300 block as it goes west back to 225 Virginia. (I should have taken a picture. Oops.)
* At Fifth and Virginia, the off-ramp from the freeway will be shifted a couple feet northward--not that there's more than a few feet for it to move--so that it sits directly next to the embankment. Then, it looks like the Marines' fence along the 500 block of Virginia will have to be shifted about halfway down the hill from its current alignment, along with some of their HVAC equipment near Seventh Street.
* The work may require the closure of the on-ramp to the freeway at Eighth Street, requiring drivers to head to 11th and N to get on the 11th Street Bridges (at least until the new on-ramps are completed at 11th and M).
* At Ninth and Virginia, Dogma's property might not be clipped, but CSX will be working to help reorient Dogma's operations toward L Street (since the current access via Virginia Avenue will be unavailable). It's possible that L Street might temporarily become two-way during construction.
* The trench will come very close to the northern fence of the Virginia Avenue Garden, but they aren't sure yet of the exact final location.
* And if you've never seen the east end of the tunnel, east of 11th Street, here you go.
Of course, through all of this, all of Virginia Avenue will be closed to traffic, and the current sidewalks will be gone as well. There will be "bridges" across the tunnel and trench for vehicular and pedestrian traffic at Third, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth, and apparently pedestrian access will be maintained to the underpass at Second Street to get to Garfield Park.
But, as I said, the information residents most want to know isn't yet public, and I wouldn't expect hard news about the plans and mitigation measures until the NEPA process gets futher along. There will be a public comment period after a series of public meetings, though they are continuing to work with the city and the Feds behind the scenes. It will be interesting to see what comes to the table.
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 More About CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel

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goldfish says: (7/20/10 10:24 AM)
The two tracks combine into one at NJ ave. The single track is alongside the freeway next to the river, until the RR bridge over the Anacostia, north of Pennsylvania Ave. Past this bridge it splits back into a double track.

Dumb question: Will CSX be upgrading the entire length to a double track? That will require that they replace the bridge.


JD says: (7/20/10 10:27 AM)
Are you talking about the bridge across the Anacostia? The track returns to double track just east of 12th Street, once it gets outside the Virginia Avenue Tunnel.



goldfish says: (7/20/10 10:27 AM)
Never mind. I see that on google maps that it the track splits into two just past the tunnel, north of M St.


Cheech says: (7/20/10 4:07 PM)
Do you know if our elected officials - Mayor Fenty, Tommy Wells, and the ANC Chairman - are going to weigh in with CSX to ensure that the children playing in Garfield Park, for example, are going to be protected from the environmental impact that is sure to result from construction? For example, who is to know for sure if those tunnels - built in 1905 I believe - do not have asbestos. Who is to know if the dust and other debris will not have an adverse impact on those living and playing in the construction area. This is very serious.

Also, I am not sure if many of the families on Captiol Hill that frequent Garfield Park are even aware of the proposed construction. Do you know how these families can be informed so they can weigh in on this very serious matter?

Thank you for what you do...


JD says: (7/20/10 5:26 PM)
CSX has been talking with the Friends of Garfield Park on a range of issues, the CSX reps said, so I imagine all sorts of items like that would be coming up.

I would think that when the public comment time comes around late this year as part of the NEPA, that plenty of Capitol Hill organizations will kick into gear to make sure residents (and commuters) are aware of the plans being proposed. I'll probably post once or twice. :-)


Mike Mancini says: (7/20/10 7:11 PM)
Well, just in time to welcome us to the neighborhood ;-) as one of the residents taking possession of a Cap Qtr townhome. We're on 3rd, not Virginia Ave, but this will certianly mess things up a bit. Thanks again for your efforts in creating this site--it is awesome.


JoeNdc says: (7/21/10 9:43 AM)
Welcome to the "hood" Mike! Oh, and welcome to your new little obsession (JDLand.com) that I and others like to view as our defacto community go to source for information. Sort of like our own community newspaper... but better.


GoNats says: (7/21/10 5:17 PM)
Say goodbye to all those big beautiful oak trees on Virginia Ave.! Not to mention the poor little squirrels


Mark says: (7/21/10 10:04 PM)
Don't give up - we can stop CSX with the NEPA process.


MJM says: (7/22/10 9:41 AM)
Good luck stopping them - concerned 'Cap Hill' residents didn't stop the freeway or save Garfield Park in the 60s.

Maybe the CSX tracks can stop the Marines from building their barracks on this side of the freeway!


Mark says: (7/22/10 10:38 AM)
So long as they want Federal $$ they have to go through NEPA - I have personally seen communities stop projects by successfully utilizing the NEPA process. We just have to be serious about our engagement with the process and CSX.


MJM says: (7/22/10 1:18 PM)
Maybe so but when you have a president/govt that likes/loves trains and has told govt employees to drive less (proposed beni of this expansion is less trucks on the road) I don't see how a few people on the hill will block this especially if it has national implications.

Interesting thing about this tunnel/tracks is that residents in the 1880s were complaining back then - 130 years later nothing has changed....


JD says: (7/22/10 1:22 PM)
I'd also note that the National Gateway project has the support of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, who like the notion of getting trucks off the roads. There are no DC elected officials on record as opposing the Virginia Avenue Tunnel work.


V says: (7/22/10 3:54 PM)
Yes, taking trucks off of the road means the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will likely view this as favorable (summarized in 500 to 1500 pages..I wonder if they factor in the dead trees?). This has positive implications for environmentalists, people who hate traffic, and road safety proponents. They'll likely be required to host public meetings, so getting people to them that share your viewpoint is all you can do, and maybe lobbying your local politicians/civic leaders.


BillP on EyeStSE says: (7/23/10 10:47 AM)
also a new cap qtr neighbor here! have been looking at this site for three years now and it is wonderful.

this might be a dumb question but is it a given that the oak trees on the south side of the 200 block of virginia would be goners as a result of the tunnel expansion? that's a shame if so.

from what i can tell, this project is very likely to move ahead, due to support from the federal and local governments, environmental groups, etc., so we might as well focus on minimizing the impact as well as what's best for the neighbors during the entire process.


JoeNdc says: (7/23/10 11:55 AM)
Welcome Bill! Yeah, I must say... I have many memories of what the near southeast used to be like so I was rather hesitant to consider buying a townhouse here. I got hooked on to the JDLand.com website and well... the rest is history. I found out so much about what this area was, what it became and what it is destined to become from reading JD's posts and following the various links that I was soon smitten. JD has been a great resource for al of us as well as a real champion of the near southeast.

I am so happy with my purchase. This area is truly going to be dynamic. Bruce DarConte the vice president of our phase 1 homeowner's association aptly says, "Where do you get a chance at such massive urban renewal in a metroploitan community anymore. What a fantastic opportunity we all have." And he is right.


robtlee says: (7/28/10 5:29 PM)
Trucks off the road? Seriously? You think truck traffic will be reduced by the train tunnel expansion? The panama canal expansion also means twice as many trucks on the road up and down the east coast. I guess they mean that without the tunnel that it would mean more trucks than they are already planning.

CSX is a corporation not a government agency. They have had windfall profits over the past 2 quarters. I asked which study they cited that their expansion would reduce the truck traffic and met blank stares from CSX officials. I asked it for it by email. No response. Where do they get their data from?

This project and the Panama Canal expansion means nothing but more of the same. More pollution. More traffic. More trucks. More trains. More noise. It means CSX will earn more money. They should. They are a business I don't fault them for being greedy.

I do fault them for spinning the project as a benefit to the D.C. area without any study backing it up. How does D.C. collect additional revenue from this tunnel expansion? I see Virginia and Maryland benefiting as they have new inter-modal terminals and ports. But D.C.? We are where the trains pass through to get to somewhere else.

If they are serious about environmental issues, how about reroute around D.C. and go through the states directly benefiting in additional revenue from the CSX expansion? What would happen if one of those trains full of double stacked cargo with hazardous materials derails in our city? BP shows that they will cut corners on safety. That worked out for them didn't it?

Did you know that CSX also had filed a lawsuit with the District to begin shipping high hazmat materials once again through the district that stopped after Sept 11. Regular hazardous materials are still allowed through. Do you really think that CSX has the best interest of D.C. in mind?

CSX's interests are not environmental. They are for profit only. Don't be sold and fall for the "it will reduce truck traffic" spin. The truth is far different.


robtlee says: (7/28/10 5:44 PM)
Consider this: CSX Train derailment raises hazardous material fears link

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