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In a conference room at Nationals Park on Wednesday night, a bevy of representatives from CSX, DDOT, and FHWA along with consultants galore showed the public for the first time a series of 12 "project concepts" for how to handle CSX's desire/need to expand the capacity of the 3,800-foot-long Virginia Avenue Tunnel that runs from 2nd to 12th Street SE.
The concepts are now posted on the project web site, and can be grouped as seven "rebuild" options along with four other "reroute" options that would bring about the abandonment of the tunnel altogether (and, it must be said, are probably a just smidge less likely to be one of the alternatives chosen).
Three of the rebuild options are along the lines of what's been discussed for more than two years now, which would be the running of a temporary track in an open trench while the expansion work is done on the existing tunnel. While having the trench on the south side of the tracks (Concept 2) has been the "default" discussion and has to be assumed to be CSX's preferred choice, Concept 3 shows the possibility of running the trench on the north side of the tunnel, which would be right next to the Southeast Freeway (and which I'm imagining would run into some issues with having to make sure all freeway supports are adequately protected). Concept 4 runs a "serpentine" trench both north and south of the existing tracks.
Concept 5 is an intriguing new notion, where a second permanent tunnel would be built parallel and south of the existing one. There's also the idea of just widening the current tunnel either while trains continue to use the tunnel (Concept 6) or with freight traffic temporarily rerouted either to Union Station (Concept 7A) or outside the District entirely (with a route shown that would take trains from Richmond through Ohio and up to Buffalo before turning back to the East Coast).
The "reroute" options all propose abandoning the tunnel, either building a nine-mile-long freight tunnel from National Airport to the Deanwood Metro station about 80 feet underground (Concept 8) or building other alignments proposed in recent years by the National Capital Planning Commission (Concepts 9 and 10), or running on CSX's existing tracks out to Ohio and then northward.
But of course, these are concepts, and one of the reasons for going through a NEPA process is to study the different ideas to then come up with alternatives, accompanied by scads of data on noise, vibration, pollution, traffic, and timeline impacts. And to determine how much the various alternatives would cost--because it's likely that CSX is not going to be too gung-ho on the options anticipated to run into the billions of dollars.
It's expected that the public meeting where the alternatives will be unveiled will be in February of 2012, at which point so many of the questions that residents have been asking for so long about how the tunnel construction will affect the day-to-day lives of people who live near and use Virginia Avenue will get some concrete answers.
Faisal Hameed of DDOT, who ran much of the meeting, emphasized a number of times during the Q&A that this is a unique project: a private company is doing work they are paying for themselves on a right of way that they own some (but not all) of, but the impacts on vehicle/pedestrian/bicycle transportation are expected to be extensive enough that DDOT requested this environmental assessment before getting to the point of signing off on any permits that CSX will need to do the work. (There is also apparently still some negotiating going on between CSX and DDOT about exactly whose right of way is where, but it was said that no portion of the project will enter private land, though some small incursions will happen on the Marine bachelor enlisted quarters' site west of 7th Street.)
The Q&A was a pretty peaceful one as these things go (which makes a cranky blogger so very happy!). Most of the wrangling between audience members and CSX was over the route that hazardous materials take when they are forced to go around the District because of various city laws and federal regulations; the audience members were trying to get CSX to admit that there's an existing route bypassing the city that's shorter than anything shown in the concepts, while CSX wasn't going to get anywhere near telling people where hazardous materials travel.
In response to one audience question (coming as a result of the new FAQ posted on the project web site), CSX did say that they are going to "strongly pursue" getting a waiver to stop the currently required blowing of horns anytime a train enters the tunnel, and that they think it should be a "strong possibility" that it can happen, though of course they weren't wanting to commit.
There were also questions that will be better asked when the alternatives are unveiled, about construction staging, safety during construction, noise and vibration impacts, traffic flow, emergency planning, alley access, and what CSX will do to restore or even improve the Virginia Avenue streetscape when construction is finished. (As for any historic preservation impacts, a Section 106 review of the project is being done concurrently with this NEPA assessment.)
Comments are being accepted on these 12 concepts for the next 30 days, either by using the web site or e-mailing contact@virginiaavenuetunnel.com. (About 530 comments were received after the September scoping meeting.) It's hoped the environmental assessment will be completed with a final NEPA decision by the summer of 2012; though, if there is a finding that there will be a "significant environmental impact" from whichever construction alternative is chosen, then a full Environmental Impact Study (EIS) would then have to be done.
Comments (4)
 
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Comments

Bruce says: (12/1/11 6:28 PM)
I'm glad they showed us some concepts..it will be a long process.


F says: (12/2/11 9:39 AM)
I wonder how many of those are "serious" concepts. It seems as though CSX is presenting some so-called alternate concepts to make it look like they're considering options when they've already decided on Concept 2 or something close to it.


MJM says: (12/3/11 3:43 PM)
If Concept 5 is a dig, build, cover, repeat as you go instead of one open long trench that may be the best option of them all. Can anyone confirm that is how Concept 5 would be constructed?


Douglas Willinger says: (12/4/11 3:30 AM)
Concept 5 also preserves a wider space making it easier to construct a below ground cut and cover tunnel for replacing the elevated SE Freeway- and would even be better if the new northern tunnel was shifted closer to the new southern tunnel.

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Recent Crime Incidents Archive  
M ST SE AND HALF ST SE   ROBBERY /  08/17/14
800 B/O VIRGINIA AVE SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  08/17/14
M ST SE AND 5TH ST SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  08/15/14
1400 B/O 1ST ST SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  08/14/14
1000 B/O 1ST ST SE   BURGLARY /  08/12/14
800 B/O L ST SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  08/11/14
HALF ST SE AND L ST SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  08/11/14
1000 B/O NEW JERSEY AVE SE   THEFT /  08/07/14
1100 B/O 10TH ST SE   THEFT /  08/07/14
70 B/O I ST SE   THEFT /  08/02/14
100 B/O K ST SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  08/01/14
200 B/O L ST SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  07/30/14
L ST SE AND 2ND ST SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  07/30/14
70 B/O I ST SE   MOTOR VEHICLE THEFT /  07/29/14
70 B/O I ST SE   THEFT /  07/29/14

Active Public Space Permits Archive  
1331 2ND ST SE    Carlton Ray 
Assigned
paving; streetfixture; excavation  
 02/10/14
to
02/09/15
908 3RD ST SE    Rachel Frankel 
Issued
streetfixture; new  
 07/24/14
to
09/21/14
1026 3RD ST SE    Wash Gas & Light Co. 
Issued
excavation; new  
 06/26/14
to
09/04/14
1331 4TH ST SE    Forest City Forest City 
Issued
excavation; new  
 01/10/14
to
02/10/15
410 M ST SE    Pepco Holdings Inc 
Issued
excavation; new  
 07/11/14
to
09/08/14
880 NEW JERSEY AVE SE    WASHINGTON GAS 
Issued
excavation; new  
 07/28/14
to
09/26/14
301 TINGEY ST SE    Potbelly Sandwich Works LLC 
Issued
new  
 03/21/12
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11/27/14

Recent Issued Building Permits Archive  
1011 1ST ST SE   
08/11/14 
TOLL DC LP / ALBERT J. PEARCE
FB1400108 / SUPPLEMENTAL
1259 1ST ST SE   
08/11/14 
CAPITAL RIVERFRONT HOTEL LLC / CAPITAL RIVERFR HOTEL LLC
AH1400636 / CONSTRUCTION
AFTER HOURS FOR PERMIT NUMBER B1401471 FOR 8 / 12 THROUGH 9 / 11 FROM 5AM TO 7PM MONDAY THROUGH SATURDAY.
1201 4TH ST SE   
08/12/14 
JBG/FEDERAL CENTER LIC / JIM CALABRESE
AN1400129 / CONSTRUCTION
PLEASE EXTEND PERMIT AN1300174 THIS IS THE FIRST EXTENSION AND PERMIT WILL BE VALID UNTIL 1 / 31 / 2015.
1212 4TH ST SE   
08/25/14 
FC 1212 LLC / MARK E. RESNICK
E1408462 / SUPPLEMENTAL
1331 4TH ST SE   
08/14/14 
F. C. 1331 LLC / FVI 2020
B1402843 / CONSTRUCTION
CONSTRUCTION OF A BRAND NEW 11 STORY BUILDING. THE BUILDING IN TOTAL IS 350 000 SQ FT. ADDING 327 RESIDENTIAL RENTAL UNITS 20 000 SQ FT. IN COMMERCIAL SPACE AND 3 BELOW GRADE PARKING LEVELS.
   
08/15/14 
CLARK CONCRETE
AH1400650 / CONSTRUCTION
AFTER HOURS TO POUR CONCRETE ON JOBSITE FROM 7AM TO 7PM FROM SUNDAY TO SATURDAY 8 / 15 / 2014 TO 11 / 15 / 2014
1000 5TH ST SE   
08/13/14 
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA /
FD1400132 / CONSTRUCTION
NEW FOUNDATION TO GRADE PERMIT FOR NEW COMMUNITY CENTER INCLUDING UTILITIES. REVISION TO FD1400029 TO REVISE STRUCTURAL DETAILS OF COLUMS.
   
08/20/14 
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / BRUCE G. PICKETT
E1408304 / SUPPLEMENTAL
1220 12TH ST SE   
08/27/14 
FAIRBANKS MORSE ENGINE / EVAN O'BRIEN/ D MCKEEVER SERVICES
B1411219 / CONSTRUCTION
INTERIOR ONLY NON-STRUCTURAL ALTERATION TO EXISTING OFFICE SPACE. WORK INCLUDS MINOR PARTITION CHANGES AND THE ASSOCIATED HVAC AND ELECTRICAL ALTERATIONS.
1015 HALF ST SE   
08/12/14 
HALF ST SE LLC / SAM HOLLEN RAMCO OF DC INC.
TL1400162 / CONSTRUCTION
INTERIOR TENANT LAYOUT OF 1ST FLOOR PERFORMANCE STUDIO SPACE AND OFFICE SPACE. PARTITIONS FURNITURE MECHANICAL ELECTRICAL AND LIFE SAFETY. CBS
   
08/15/14 
HALF ST SE LLC / ROBERT L HUNTER
M1402951 / SUPPLEMENTAL
   
08/16/14 
SAM HOLLEN / DONALD VEALS; SAM HOLLEN; DONALD VEALS
E83010192 / SUPPLEMENTAL
200 I ST SE   
08/08/14 
DANIEL RILEY / OMAR BIAGAS; DANIEL RILEY; JOHN BIAGAS
E47247428 / SUPPLEMENTAL
41 L ST SE   
08/20/14 
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY (WMATA) / SAMIR ALQUTRI - GEOTECHNICAL SOLUTIONS INC.
SB1400402 / CONSTRUCTION
GSI PLANS TO DRILL 4 SOIL TEST BORINGS TO CONFIRM SOIL STRENGTH WITH A HOLLOW-STEM AUGER EQUIPPED WITH A SPLIT SPOON SAMPLER FOR THE SPT N-VALUE TESTS DOWN TO A MAXIMUM DEPTH OF 80 FEET BELOW EXISTING GRADES. ALL BORINGS WILL BE DRILLED TO THE MAXIMUM DEPTH OR AUGER REFUSAL WHICHEVER OCCURS FIRST. THE BORE HOLES DIMENSION WILL BE 3.25 INCHES AND SHALL BE GROUTED UPON COMPLETION.
20 M ST SE   
08/22/14 
TRANSWESTERN JEFFERY W GROSS / ANDREW ARNTSON; TRANSWESTERN JEFFERY W GROSS; ANDREW ARNTSON
P96600069 / SUPPLEMENTAL
   
08/22/14 
TRANSWESTERN JEFFERY W GROSS / ANDREW ARNTSON; TRANSWESTERN JEFFERY W GROSS; ANDREW ARNTSON
G22130990 / SUPPLEMENTAL
   
08/25/14 
SUBWAY / N/A; DAMON ELLIS
SG1400416 / CONSTRUCTION
INSTALLATION OF NON ELECTRIC SIGN 10FT 8IN LENGTH 2IN WIDE 25IN HEIGHT
   
08/27/14 
JOHN GLUSEPPE-RAMCO / CARL LAVENDT; JOHN GLUSEPPE-RAMCO; CARL LAVENDT
E10905761 / SUPPLEMENTAL
100 M ST SE   
08/16/14 
NORTHWOOD INVESTERS LLC / STANLEY HUBBARD; NORTHWOOD INVESTERS LLC; STANLEY HUBBARD
E14516088 / SUPPLEMENTAL
901 M ST SE   
08/14/14 
CARLTON RAY
AH1400642 / CONSTRUCTION
TO PERFORM TEMPORARY LANE CLOSURES
1201 M ST SE   
08/14/14 
CARLTON RAY
AH1400641 / CONSTRUCTION
TO PERFORM TEMPORARY LANE CLOSURES
861 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
08/21/14 
CONSOLIDATED RAIL CORPORATION / ROBERT COLISH
P1407975 / SUPPLEMENTAL
1111 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
08/12/14 
NJA ASSOCIATES LLC / COLIN CLARK
B1308085 / CONSTRUCTION
CONSTRUCT A NEW 13 STORY APARTMENT BUILDING WITH THREE BELOW GRADE PARKING LEVELS FIRST FLOOR RETAIL A PRIVATE SWIMMING POOL PROJECTIONS OF BAY WINDOWS 324 UNITS TO INCLUDE MECHANICAL PLUMBING ELECTRICAL AND ELEVATOR WORK.
1200 SOUTH CAPITOL ST SE   
08/26/14 
MR BALLPARK 4 LLC. / MR BALLPARK 4 LLC.; RPS INC.
SB1400375 / CONSTRUCTION
ENVIRONMENTAL SOIL BORINGS FOR DUE DILIGENCE INVESTIGATION. ADVANCE A SERIES OF 10 ENVIRONMENTAL SOIL BORINGS AT THE SUBJECT SITE TO COLLECT SOIL AND GROUNDWATER SAMPLES FOR FIELD SCREENING AND LABORATORY ANALYSIS. THE SOIL BORINGS ARE BEING CONDUCTED AS PART OF A DUE DILIGENCE INVESTIGATION ASSOCIATED WITH A REAL ESTATE TRANSACTION. INVESTIGATION DERIVED WASTE -IDW- WILL BE LABORATORY TESTED AND ...
1230 SOUTH CAPITOL ST SE   
08/21/14 
PUBLIC STORAGE INSTITUTE FUND / RAYMOND SCIANNELLA
E1408379 / SUPPLEMENTAL
   
08/21/14 
PUBLIC STORAGE INSTITUTE FUND / CHRIS WING
B1410888 / CONSTRUCTION
INTERIOR ALTERATION TO EXISTING SELF STORAGE BUILDING TO REPLACE FIRE ALARM SYSTEM.
AH = After Hours; B = Alteration & Repair; D = Demolition; E = Electrical; FB = Boiler; M = Mechanical; P = Plumbing and Gas; PC = Post Card; R = Raze; SG = Sign; TL = Tenant Layout; TN = Tent; RW = Retaining Wall;

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