Tonight a gaggle of representatives from CSX and Clark/Parsons held an open house to provide information on what will happen during the first four months of the multiyear project to expand the Virginia Avenue Tunnel
Of greatest interest to observers outside of the "front row" homes along Virginia Avenue would probably be the boards laying out the planned flow of construction during the project's first four months, from the construction of fences to the relocation of public utilities to the removal of trees (all those little red dots--ow) to the installation of temporary sidewalks and driveways.
(Best to fire up the PDF
and zoooooom in to read the legend and the graphics on the construction maps, because there's no way I can summarize it all here.)
The first part of the project will be to build the new companion tunnel immediately to the south of the existing tunnel, which CSX says is expected to last 18-20 months. The work won't happen all at once along all 10 blocks of the project, nor will it proceed in an orderly wave from west to east. The first eight-foot-high fences will go up west of 2nd Street and in the "pocket park" block between 4th and 5th, and with utility relocation happening throughout the first four months across most of the other blocks along Virginia.
During this first 18ish-month phase, traffic coming off of the Southeast Freeway will be able to continue eastward on Virginia Avenue to 8th Street, albeit with a reduction in the number of lanes. (No, the freeway ramp isn't going to be closed for five years.)
When work then shifts to the expansion of the existing tunnel, the stretch of Virginia between 5th and 7th will be closed and traffic coming off the freeway will be routed onto the portion of Virginia north of the freeway, which will become a two-way street during this part of the project.
The cross streets--3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, and 11th--will remain open throughout construction, albeit with temporary closures to build the decking across the tunnel trench. (No, the cross streets aren't going to be closed for five years.)
One new-to-me tidbit this evening is that the little stub of I Street east of 4th
that runs around the south side of the pocket park will be permanently closed, with the green space of that block reconfigured, and with Virginia Avenue shifted northward to align it correctly with the rest of the street. (UPDATE:
Note that the drawings show that during construction [and I presume afterward] the stub will stay open up to the driveway between St. Paul's and the CQ houses. The stub of the stub, as it were. I am asking for clarification.)
CSX has agreed to a number of items outside the tunnel construction itself both as part of the Section 106 historical/archaeological agreement
and community mitigation plans
. The tunnel's portal stones will be reused, as will the original Virginia Avenue paving stones, and the control tower at 2nd and Virginia SW will be restored. (And interpretive signs! Let's not forget those!) They have also pledged to restore Virginia Avenue Park and nstall improved lighting and traffic signals/crosswalks, a better connection to Garfield Park, a new bike path, wider sidewalks, and a new dog park.
For the "front row" residents along Virginia Avenue, there is also the Residential Mitigation Plan
, which includes $500 payments for 42 months, an additional payment of as much as $75,000 if a resident sells their home during construction (to "offset the sale prices required to market [the] home"). There is also a pre-construction inspection process underway in case a resident needs to file a claim
for damage during the project.
And now that I've tried to hit the highest of high points, and knowing that you didn't click on the PDF link despite my telling you to, here are the other display boards of most general interest (though you're still going to want the PDF to read the maps
The big question of course is, when will this "real" construction start? While some site preparation is already underway
, the company must receive approval of public space permits from the city before the fences go up, which hasn't yet happened.
Then there is the lawsuit filed by the Committee of 100
to try to get a new environmental impact study, which would of course delay the project considerably (it's almost like that's their plan!). While the case itself won't be heard until June, on Feb. 17 there will be a hearing on C100's request for an injunction
to prevent the city from issuing permits for work on the tunnel during the course of the lawsuit.
On Jan. 26, Judge Christopher Cooper heard--and denied--the group's request to subpoena a wide range of CSX documents "about information that wasn’t addressed in the final environmental impact statement about the project or in the administrative record," according to Law.com
CSX representatives have told me that, until the judge tells them otherwise, they will continue to move forward on the project.
All told, the project is supposed to last somewhere between 30 and 42 months. Give or take.