Since January, 2003
 Page Through from Before to After

I will be the first to admit that I did not do a very good job tracking the progress of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel construction. Even putting aside the fact that most of it happened underground, it just came at a rotten time in my life and was too large a footprint for me to ever really feel like I could do it justice. So of course instead of trying my best anyway, I just kind of gave up. Oops.
But, while the expansion of the original tunnel and the construction of the second track tunnel are both now complete, and now it is just streetscape work standing between impatient drivers* and the reopening of the avenue east of 4th, there is a part of the project where I can think I can provide a service, and that is looking at the actual changes in Virginia Avenue itself since digging started in spring 2015.
Yes, we're going to take a tour of the road. You might be surprised at how much it has changed.
Let's start at 2nd and Virginia, which in the pre-project days was a weird intersection between 2nd and the functional Virginia Avenue to the east along with the incomplete H Street and closed-off Virginia Avenue to the east. It never saw much traffic but was large and oddly configured for a spot with so little use. These are two before-and-after sets, first looking north-northwestward, and then eastward (sorry for the crappy current shots):
Remembering that you can click to enlarge these photos and then page through them, you'll see how this 2nd-H-Virginia intersection was extremely wide and mainly focused on the flow of traffic along Virginia Avenue, which became superfluous when in the early 2000s it was decided to close Virginia from this spot out to South Capitol (because of security concerns with its location right by the Capitol Power Plant). In the new version, there are big sidewalk bulb-outs, shinking the amount of asphalt and making it easier for pedestrians to cross the street, which comes in handy for the hordes marching toward Whole Foods in the next block.
As we continue east on Virginia, there isn't much of a change in the 300 block's footprint, other than the creation of bulb-outs to narrow the sidewalk width while still allowing mid-block parking on both sides.
But there's definitely a few changes where Virginia heads east across 4th Street:
The street is now closer to the freeway, and on a straight line toward the intersection with 5th Street. The wide bend from 4th Street is gone, meaning that hopefully cars turning left from 4th onto Virginia will now have to slow down to navigate the intersection. There's also now parking on the south side of the street, which mainly serves to add back in the few parking spaces that disappeared now that I Street no longer bends into Virginia east of 4th. I don't have an "after" photo, but you can see what it used to do here, and also see how Virginia had to bend northward to get to the intersection with 5th.
The intersection at 5th (which becomes 6th as you go north under the freeway) has always been ugly, so ugly that I never came up with a good standard way of photographing it, which means my before pictures aren't always helpful. But in this comparison shot looking west, you can see how Virginia is now a straight shot coming from 4th to 5th. You can also see that the street and ramp from 695 are much closer, and the grading has been changed as well,
Turning around and looking eastward on Virginia at 5th, you can see how much the traffic flow has been altered:
Before, the freeway traffic used to continue on Virginia via the lanes to the left, and the traffic from Virginia and those turning onto Virginia from 5th used the merging lanes to the right. And there was a lovely median separating them, making it a long trek for pedestrians from the north side of Virginia to the south side. Now, as you can mostly see (sorry about the shadows), it's more like a regular intersection, except that from what I can tell the drivers in the middle lanes from Virginia and the ramp will have a wide middle lane to handle their merging as they go east. Will have to see how the ramp lanes are striped--will the left ramp lane be left-turn only? Or left/straight, and the right ramp lane straight, as it used to be? We Shall See.
Now we get to 7th Street, which doesn't really look that different except that the diagonal stub of K Street just to the south is now gone, again making it easier for pedestrians on the east side of 7th to get north of Virginia.
Now we have reached 8th Street, the end of my little tour. First turning back to look westward, you'll see that the lanes no longer split, once again making it easier for pedestrians to get across:
When you look eastward across 8th, you'll see a big change (the departure of the on-ramp to 695), but that happened in 2013. As I'm sure you remember.
I imagine the blocks east of 4th Street will open Any Minute Now, since they are all now striped and lamped and lighted and curbed. Then we can find out how it all works when actual pedestrians, drivers, bicyclists, scooterists, and the like get a hold of it.
It was a long 3 1/2 years to get to this point, but these photos indicate--even more than I realized--that CSX did not just tear Virginia Avenue up, dig a tunnel, and plop the old street right back down on top of the new tunnel.
* I'll do a tour of the new bike side path another time.
Comments (24)
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202_cyclist says: (1/6/19 9:44 PM)
JD— thank you for the photos. I think CSX did a great job with the new steeet and the bike and pedestrian paths.

With the Nationals installing solar panels above their parking garage, I was thinking that the parking garage attached to the DC municipal building at 2nd and I Street would be another excellent candidate for solar panels. I am going to email Charles Allen to suggest this.

GarfieldPark says: (1/7/19 1:14 AM)
Great post. As a frequent visitor to Garfield Park (!), I love the connection it now has off H street.

NavyYardRes says: (1/7/19 10:44 AM)
A little late for this comment and thought but was an opportunity missed here to fully utilize some or all of the road space as a green car free transit-way? After 3+ years, cars have figured out how to navigate around with minimal traffic disruptions (except gamedays). Maybe they could shut the road or sections off on weekends for use as a pop-up park space?

202_cyclist says: (1/7/19 11:22 AM)
@NavyYardRes— that is an excellent idea! I think we should have a monthly CicLAvia in the neighborhood.

JD says: (1/7/19 11:24 AM)
I am guessing there is not much interest in keeping the two-block stretch of Virginia Avenue north of the freeway as two-way traffic, or coming up with ways to roll that into place every so often. It was very much sold to the ANCs and stakeholders as a temporary solution, and it was one that wasn't really that popular. It's not a very safe stretch of road.

MarkB says: (1/7/19 11:59 AM)
Once upon a time, (before 9/11), Virginia Ave was open from South Capitol St for vehicle traffic. Do we know the plans for the stretch west of 2nd St?

Ampersand says: (1/7/19 1:06 PM)
Does anyone know if 5th St has been reopened next to Capper? Last I went by back in December, there wasn't even a pedestrian path and I had to walk around to 4th. I haven't ventured back that way since because I didn't want to have to detour again.

Section314 says: (1/7/19 4:52 PM)
The blocks east of 4th Street remain closed pending synchronization of the traffic signals between there and 8th Street. Presumably, that is an issue to be solved between D. and MC Dean, their contractor.

Regarding MarkB's comments, see Article I, Section 8 of the U. S. Constitution to determine the plans for that stretch of Virginia Avenue. It is in the next to last paragraph of the section.

JD says: (1/7/19 7:51 PM)
On my A1 Tires tidbit, from Facebook; "Hey JDLand! Thanks for mentioning Waterfront Church! Our church will not be moving from our two storefronts at 1000 New Jersey Ave SE, but expanding to the old 100 K street SE tire shop."

MarkB says: (1/8/19 9:10 AM)
Article I, Section 8 of the U. S. Constitution - (aka Powers of Congress):

"To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;"

Got it...

dude says: (1/8/19 10:13 AM)
It really has flown by for me. Thanks for posting these photos all together in one spot!

One thing that happened within the last few months that is not particularly great is the traffic light behavior on 3rd just north of the freeway. It acts very strangely indeed. I used to use that on ramp every morning to go to work, then I switched locations (and now go M ST to 295 south), so I don’t use it that much now, but on the occasions I have, it’s been kind of crappy. The parking under the bridge doesn’t help. Anyone else experience this?

JD says: (1/8/19 10:29 AM)
New ANC commish Edward Daniels complained on Twitter last week about the confusing signage for parking under the freeway on the northbound side. When I walked down through there this weekend, there was only one sign left, and it said No Parking or Standing Anytime. So maybe it will improve.

If they decide to put a four-way stop in at 3rd and Virginia, that will be interesting.

NavyYardNittany says: (1/8/19 12:26 PM)
Anyone have info on plans for the space under the freeway between Virginia Ave and Garfield Park (the North end of 2nd Street)? I know it’s open now, but would love to see something done with it and with the access road that borders the south side of the park.

dcgent says: (1/8/19 2:47 PM)
new questions about whether that movie theater will ever come to the hood

(oops, image URL included with this comment didn't work!)

dcgent says: (1/8/19 2:48 PM)
Sorry here's the link again

Section314 says: (1/8/19 7:08 PM)
And, Virginia Avenue from 4th Street to 8th Street (at least, I didn't go past 7th) opened today.

JD says: (1/8/19 9:50 PM)
I can't link directly to it, but if you scroll down on this page to Project Gallery, there's a new (to me, anyway) animation of the new Douglass Bridge, the ovals, the pedestrian paths and riverfronts, etc: link

Lambau88 says: (1/8/19 10:22 PM)
Signage is up at Novel South Capitol.

RMP says: (1/9/19 8:41 AM)
I was poking around the Guild website and noticed a few interesting things. The Amenities page doesn't mention a pool but does talk about "shaded cabanas". There's also no mention of a concierge but instead "package lockers available for 24/7 pickup". I'm curious because those 2 things (concierge and pool) always seem to be the top selling points for leasing agents. I have heard whisperings that Brookfield wants to cut costs and concierge is at the top of the chopping block, so I'm curious if this is a sneak peek of what's to come.

dcgent says: (1/9/19 10:42 AM)
What's interesting about the animation is it implies the stadium will not be visible from the bridge crossing once all those riverfront residences are in place. But pretty slick video/design.

JD says: (1/9/19 11:30 AM)
It's always been known that the build-out of Florida Rock would end the days of the stadium being seen from the river, and the location of the new bridge a smidge further to the southwest just seals the deal.

NavyYardRes says: (1/9/19 12:21 PM)
@RMP - Do you have the website for the guild? I can't find it...

RMP says: (1/9/19 1:17 PM)
@NavyYardRes It's link

jdc says: (1/10/19 9:10 AM)
Great post, even if I've never driven these roads so it is a tad confusing. Though that may also just be the entire configuration of the area. I look forward to future posts when the freeway is put into a tunnel and the entire corridor is connected with the streets to the north!

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