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(I am, as they say, out of pocket, so I hope you will have patience with me for being in cut and pasting mode today.)
Here is the release sent out on Wednesday from the DCSafeRail folks about the Virginia Avenue Tunnel Final Environmental Impact Statement released last week:


(June 19, 2014) Washington, DC--According to documents in the Environmental Impact Statement for the CSX Tunnel at Virginia Avenue, SE, released last Friday, it appears that the District Department of Transportation has predetermined the EIS and apparently rubber-stamped CSX’s proposal for a partially open-trench construction project that will carry hazardous cargo less than a mile from the U.S. Capitol and through the heart of a growing residential/business community. It also appears to contradict Mayor Gray’s promise, made to over 400 people in January, that “…there is no way that we are going to allow people’s safety and security concerns to be compromised” by the CSX Tunnel.

In Appendix A (pg. 47) of the Final EIS appears to show that DDOT entered into a previously unknown agreement with CSX to grant occupancy permits to expand the tunnel’s right of way beyond its existing footprint. Additional agreements apparently indicate that upon conclusion of the project, CSX would be entitled to a permanent right-of-way to cover the expanded tunnel.

“We hope that the District Government has not thrown us under the freight train,” said Helen Douglas, a member of DCSafeRail, the coalition committed to the health, safety and security of the people in and around the CSX proposed expansion site. “We ask Mayor Gray to honor his commitment to us and withdraw any pre-EIS approval for these permits and conduct a true EIS with real alternatives to the CSX Tunnel fully analyzed.”

DCSafeRail will also ask the City Council, through Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmember Mary Cheh, chair of the Council’s transportation oversight committee, and our own Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells to hold hearings on the whole CSX Tunnel EIS.

The CSX Tunnel project will route freight trains with hazardous cargo, including occasional Bakken crude oil, through a partially open construction trench for almost four years. DDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) prepared the EIS.

“At best, this indicates that the District government is failing to uphold basic principles of good government, including transparency and accountability,” said Douglas.” At worst, it suggests that the environmental study is a farce because it rubber-stamps the CSX open-trench proposal.”

The Washington Post had a short piece on this response, with DDOT's response to the response: "DDOT spokesman Reggie Sanders said in an e-mail that the permit relative to Virginia Avenue SE and adjacent streets 'will have no force or effect until a build alternative is approved via Record of Decision.' Other requests for comment regarding the city’s commitment to the project have not been answered."
Comments (9)
 More About CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel Home


E. Masquinongy says: (6/20/14 9:19 AM)
JD: from the Washington Post Article:

"The city also has asked CSX to extend the tunnel to 12th Street SE."

Is this to tie in to the proposed SE boulevard?

JD says: (6/20/14 9:45 AM)
More that so the proposed extension of 12th one block northward can happen - which ties into SE Blvd.

E. Masquinongy says: (6/20/14 10:51 AM)
JD: Interesting.

I recall, somewhere, that there was a proposal to extend 12th St, but I can not understand how this was going to segue into the public housing on K St. I presume there are no plans to connect to 12th St north of K, true?

NSkidmore says: (6/20/14 3:57 PM)

DCSafeRail issued the following statement regarding DDOT's justification yesterday for the issuances of permits for the CSX Tunnel before the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is complete [Washington Post, 6/19/14: DDOT's Early Commitment to CSX Tunnel Project in S.E. DC Irks Residents]:

We appreciate the assurance from DDOT spokesperson Reggie Sanders that the DDOT permits "will have no force or effect until a build alternative is approved via Record of Decision," but this hardly corrects the weight of the documents in the EIS that are overwhelmingly in favor of the project, specifically including issuing the street occupancy two years ago and the promise by DDOT and the City Administrator (who oversees all executive agencies for the mayor) to expedite other permits and approvals.

The EIS documents, prepared by CSX’s paid consultants, call into question DDOT’s objectivity and transparency, and raise the question why this agreement was not disclosed to the public until now, despite years of countless questions from the public and elected officials about DDOT’s permitting process and criteria. We want Mayor Gray to back-up his January commitment to not "allow people’s safety and security concerns to be compromised” by the CSX Tunnel with its track in a partially open trench carrying trains with hazardous materials. We therefore ask Mayor Gray to countermand all efforts to "expedite" this project and assure everyone concerned that all approvals and permits will be given full review and consideration and that the EIS has not already been rubber-stamped.

JD says: (6/21/14 7:29 AM)
E, the extension of 12th would only be for one block, to allow drivers coming off 695 to M to go one more block and turn to go left to 11th or right onto SE Blvd. It wouldn't go up to K.

E. Masquinongy says: (6/25/14 9:00 AM)
EHN has weighed in.

JD says: (6/25/14 9:22 AM)
My vacation to Detroit last week has ended, but somehow I haven't quite returned to blogging. (Object, rest, stays, etc.)

323 says: (6/25/14 11:40 AM)
Sooo... pardon my ignorance, but i have a few questions. May sound flippant, but I do not intend them to. Trying to unpack the objection to the tunnel.

1. Access. Get that, if it is more difficult to get to and from your home, that presents a problem.
2. Noise, construction, etc. Understand the nuisance, but its not like this is the first or last construction project of major significance in this neighborhood recently. I could see if you all of the sudden started this work in georgetown (not the best example, but you get it) or something where it was so contrary to what the neighborhood is used to.
3. Length of time. 3 years doesnt seem too bad. Its not like there wont be adjacent construction going on for much longer.
4. Open Trench. By my count there are a few potentially hazardous unfinished or abandoned lots in the area that would be more dangerous than a site that is at least constantly monitored from a safety perspective bc it is an active construction site. What exactly is the worry here? Someone will fall in? Serious question.
5. Air Quality. Understand the worry.
6. Hazardous Materials. I understand the suspicion, but I would think proximity to the capitol would mitigate peoples fear. No?

Maybe I am being naive, or dont fully comprehend the scope of the work being done and it will truly be more disruptive than I understand. But this seems like something that is going to happen, and pushing/asking for more time is simply not worth the return in whatever we'll get from CSX. And in effect all we are doing is pushing the date this all gets completed further away. Maybe opponents goal is simply to get the best deal possible. If thats the case, I'd say take a good deal and lets get this thing over with.

E. Masquinongy says: (6/25/14 2:19 PM)
323: the more important consideration is what will be built. The purposed to enable double-stacked trains, and the train traffic will surely increase; presently a train passes over these tracks about twice an hour. And lately there have been accidents. While train wrecks are rare, they are far worse than a typical truck accident (which is bad enough).

Basically, I think some people want the entire line re-routed outside of the DC. Short of that, that the line is to be completely buried within DC, with tunnels under the rivers. Both options were considered and dismissed, due to cost.

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