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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  
200 B/O VIRGINIA AVE SE   MOTOR VEHICLE THEFT /  07/10/14
900 B/O HALF ST SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  07/10/14
100 B/O M ST SE   THEFT /  07/09/14
4TH ST SE AND L ST SE   ROBBERY /  07/08/14
800 B/O POTOMAC AVE SE   THEFT /  07/07/14
300 B/O K ST SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  07/07/14
1100 B/O NEW JERSEY AVE SE   THEFT /  07/05/14
100 B/O L ST SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  07/04/14
1100 B/O 2ND PLACE SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  07/03/14
2ND PLACE SE AND I ST SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  07/02/14
70 B/O I ST SE   ROBBERY / GUN  07/02/14
200 B/O I ST SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  07/02/14
400 B/O M ST SE   MOTOR VEHICLE THEFT /  06/30/14
UNIT B/O M ST SE   THEFT F/AUTO /  06/30/14
70 B/O I ST SE   THEFT /  06/29/14

Active Public Space Permits Archive  
1011 1ST ST SE    Pepco Holdings Inc 
Issued
excavation; new  
 06/26/14
to
08/26/14
1331 2ND ST SE    Carlton Ray 
Assigned
paving; streetfixture; excavation  
 02/10/14
to
02/09/15
804 3RD ST SE    Maximiliano Villagra 
Issued
streetfixture; new  
 08/05/14
to
08/06/14
904 3RD ST SE    Janel Fitzhugh 
Issued
streetfixture; new  
 07/01/14
to
08/14/14
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
913 5TH ST SE    Wash Gas & Light Co. 
Issued
excavation; new  
 06/26/14
to
08/28/14
1100 - 1199 BLOCK 1ST ST SE    tom cash 
Issued
excavation; new  
 06/27/14
to
08/25/14
410 M ST SE    Pepco Holdings Inc 
Issued
excavation; new  
 07/11/14
to
09/08/14
800 NEW JERSEY AVE SE    Pepco Holdings Inc 
Issued
excavation; new  
 06/20/14
to
08/22/14
880 NEW JERSEY AVE SE    WASHINGTON GAS 
Issued
excavation; new  
 06/17/14
to
08/17/14
    WASHINGTON GAS 
Issued
excavation; new  
 07/28/14
to
09/26/14
1105 NEW JERSEY AVE SE    Wash Gas & Light Co. 
Issued
excavation; new  
 06/13/14
to
08/11/14
301 TINGEY ST SE    Potbelly Sandwich Works LLC 
Issued
new  
 03/21/12
to
11/27/14

Recent Issued Building Permits Archive  
1025 1ST ST SE   
07/26/14 
NA NA NA
EHOP1490737 / HOME OCCUPATION
1100 1ST ST SE   
07/15/14 
NA NA NA
EHOP1490710 / HOME OCCUPATION
1212 4TH ST SE   
07/11/14 
FC 1212 LLC /
P1406926 / SUPPLEMENTAL
   
07/14/14 
MIKE LENARD / BHAR; W. SAKIE BHAR
SG1400363 / CONSTRUCTION
INSTALL ONE SET OF BUILDING SIGN ON TO EXISTING BUILDING
1331 4TH ST SE   
07/09/14 
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA / RONALD C. CAYTON
E1406628 / SUPPLEMENTAL
1103 9TH ST SE   
07/25/14 
ICP PARTNERS POTOMAC 810 LLC / TALBERT DOWLING
E1407537 / SUPPLEMENTAL
1220 12TH ST SE   
07/16/14 
FAIRBANKS MORSE ENGINE / EVAN O'BRIEN/ D MCKEEVER SERVICES
B1409041 / CONSTRUCTION
INTERIOR ALTERATION TO EXISTING 2578 SF OFFICE SPACE. AFFECTED AREA LESS THAN 1000 SF TO CREATE DEMISING WALL AND MINOR ALTERATIONS TO PARTITION PLAN IN CONFERENCE AREA. MECHANICAL AND ELECTRICAL WORK INCLUDED.
326 L ST SE   
07/17/14 
NA NA NA
EHOP1490715 / HOME OCCUPATION
55 M ST SE   
07/16/14 
HINES GLOBAL REIT 55 M STREET LLC / TYRAN D. BRANNUM
E1407255 / SUPPLEMENTAL
20 M ST SE   
07/17/14 
SOUTHEAST REALTY LLC / JOHN GIUSEPPE-RAMCO
TL1400132 / CONSTRUCTION
FIRST TIME TENANT BUILDOUT FOR FAST FOOD ESTABLISHMENT - SUBWAY SANDWICH SHOP SEATING 41 AS SHOWN ON THE ATTACHED ARCH. MECH. PLUMB. ELECT AND FIRE PROTECTION DWGS. INTERIOR WORK ONLY.
55 M ST SE   
07/15/14 
HINES
B1409693 / CONSTRUCTION
INSTALL 6 AUTOMATIC DOOR OPERATORS LOCATED AT THE ELEVATOR LOBBIES BETWEEN THE 4TH-7TH FLOORS
901 M ST SE   
07/15/14 
CARLTON RAY
AH1400584 / CONSTRUCTION
TO PERFORM TEMPORARY LANE CLOSURES
1201 M ST SE   
07/15/14 
CARLTON RAY
AH1400585 / CONSTRUCTION
TO PERFORM TEMPORARY LANE CLOSURES
800 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
07/14/14 
NEW JERSEY AT H LLC / COLIN CLARK
B1409654 / CONSTRUCTION
REVISION TO PERMIT #SH1400039 FOR A OWNERSHIP CHANGE
   
07/28/14 
WC SMITH CO. / COLIN CLARK
FD1400040 / CONSTRUCTION
FOOTINGS AND FOUNDATIONS TO GRADE FOR A FUTURE APARTMENT BUILDING
1000 NEW JERSEY AVE SE   
07/11/14 
CAPITOL HILL TOWER HOUSING COOPERATIVE INCF / RICHARD G. FINFROCK
P1406902 / SUPPLEMENTAL
   
07/11/14 
CAPITOL HILL TOWER HOUSING COOPERATIVE INCF / BRANDON K VIERNES
M1402531 / SUPPLEMENTAL
   
07/22/14 
CAPITOL HILL TOWER HOUSING COOPERATIVE INCF / DONALD R. MCGLYNN
E1407426 / SUPPLEMENTAL
1236 SOUTH CAPITOL ST SE   
07/11/14 
1244 SOUTH CAPITOL RESIDENTIAL LLC / GEOCAPITOL ENGINEERING LLC
SB1400340 / CONSTRUCTION
WE PROPOSE DRILLING THREE SIX-INCH DIAMETER GEOTECHNICAL TEST BORINGS USING THE HOLLOW STEM AUGER METHOD TO EVALUATE THE SUBSURFACE CONDITIONS. THE PROPOSED TEST BORING DEPTHS WILL BE 80 FEET BELOW THE EXISTING GROUND SURFACE. DRILLING EQUIPMENT WILL BE DECONTAMINATED BETWEEN EACH HOLE TO AVOID CROSS CONTAMINATION THROUGHOUT THE SITE. UPON COMPLETION THE GEOTECHNICAL TEST BORINGS WILL BE BACKFILLE...
1244 SOUTH CAPITOL ST SE   
07/11/14 
1244 SOUTH CAPITOL RESIDENTIAL LLC / GEOCAPITOL ENGINEERING LLC
SB1400341 / CONSTRUCTION
WE PROPOSE DRILLING TWO SIX-INCH DIAMETER GEOTECHNICAL TEST BORINGS USING THE HOLLOW STEM AUGER METHOD TO EVALUATE THE SUBSURFACE CONDITIONS. THE PROPOSED TEST BORING DEPTHS WILL BE 80 FEET BELOW THE EXISTING GROUND SURFACE. DRILLING EQUIPMENT WILL BE DECONTAMINATED BETWEEN EACH HOLE TO AVOID CROSS CONTAMINATION THROUGHOUT THE SITE. UPON COMPLETION THE GEOTECHNICAL TEST BORINGS WILL BE BACKFILLED ...
300 TINGEY ST SE   
07/23/14 
CM-YARDS LLC / DWIGHT SMITH
B1408815 / CONSTRUCTION
INSTALL OUTSIDE SEATING SUMMER GARDEN.
201 TINGEY ST SE   
07/11/14 
JBG COMPANIES / GEORGE DELGADO
B1409541 / CONSTRUCTION
ONE DAY SPECIAL EVENT FOR BMW SHOW--150 OCCUPANTS EXTERNAL GENERATOR RESTROOMS AND LIGHTING BAY DOORS TO REMAIN OPEN DURING FUNCTION
   
07/22/14 
JBG/SEFC 170 LLC / MICHAEL B. BELL
E1407422 / SUPPLEMENTAL
300 TINGEY ST SE   
07/10/14 
FORREST CITY AT THE YARDS / CRIS FLACK
TL1400123 / CONSTRUCTION
REVISION TO B1402734 FOR REVISIONS TO MECHANICAL AND ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS.
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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