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Near Southeast DC Past News Items: CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel
See JDLand's CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel Project Page
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1244 South Capitol
Virginia Ave. Tunnel
New Douglass Bridge
Yards/Parcel O
JBG/Akridge/Half St.
Ex-Monument/Half St.
Chiller Site Condos
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Yards/Icon Theater
1333 M St.
Capper Apts.
250 M St.
New Marine Barracks
Nat'l Community Church
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Congressional Square
1000 South Capitol
SC1100
Completed
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Lumber Shed ('13)
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Capitol Quarter ('12)
225 Virginia/200 I ('12)
Foundry Lofts ('12)
1015 Half Street ('10)
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Velocity Condos ('09)
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909 New Jersey Ave. ('09)
55 M ('09)
100 M ('08)
Onyx ('08)
70/100 I ('08)
Nationals Park ('08)
Seniors Bldg Demo ('07)
400 M ('07)
Douglass Bridge Fix ('07)
US DOT HQ ('07)
20 M ('07)
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Capitol Hill Tower ('06)
Courtyard/Marriott ('06)
Marine Barracks ('04)
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CSX has put out the word that there will be two utility relocation sites related to the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project gearing up starting on Monday, April 20, or thereabouts:
* Traffic lanes on 4th Street SE between the westbound lanes of Virginia Avenue and I Street will "temporarily shift to accommodate utility relocation work." The work will happen between 7 am and 7 pm on weekdays only and is expected to last about two months. "Some parking spaces will be temporarily occupied during the work period to accommodate lane shifts."
* There will also be utility relocation work under the Southeast Freeway in the "ad hoc recreation area," that little pass-through popular with the skateboard kidz where you can walk from 2nd Street under the overpass and into Garfield Park. "Access to the area will be limited during construction hours and visitors are encouraged to be cautious when traveling near the area." There's also the note that in the coming weeks "this work will extend into the intersection of 2nd Street S.E. and Virginia Avenue."
If you wish to discuss any of this with CSX, there will be an open house on April 23 from 4:30 to 7:30 pm at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel at 140 L St. SE. There's also expanded hours at the CSX community office on New Jersey Avenue: it's now open from 7 am to noon Mondays and Wednesdays and noon to 8 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also contact them by e-mail, phone, or web.
I wrote a few months ago about the initial construction plans, under which "utility relocation" qualifies.

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More posts: CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel, Traffic Issues
 

Today US District Judge Christopher Cooper ruled against the request for an injunction in the lawsuit brought by the Committee of 100 over the plans and process around the expansion of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel.
You can read the opinion here, but here's a quote that gets at the meat of the ruling, on page 3:
"Before the Court is an application by the Committee for a preliminary injunction prohibiting DDOT from issuing the necessary permits for reconstruction of the tunnel to begin. The bar for obtaining a preliminary injunction pending resolution of a suit on the merits is high, and the Court concludes that it has not been cleared here. On the record before the Court, the Committee has not established that its suit is likely to succeed on the merits. Nor has it shown that the potential environmental harm of reconstruction outweighs the public benefit from modernizing the tunnel. The Court will, accordingly, deny the Committee's application."
There then follows 40 pages of discussion of the legal merits of each of the Committee of 100's points of contention, before concluding:
"The Court concludes the balance of the equities tips decidedly in the Defendants' favor, and particularly towards the public interest. As discussed above, the Committee's contentions that a new tunnel will lead to more accidents and a greater risk of terrorist attack are speculative at best. And with the exception of the removal of some 200 trees, the Committee has not established that any environmental effects of the construction activity will be severe or irreparable."
It goes on to say that, while a resident's misgivings about a large-scale construction project outside her windows are "understandable," those concerns "do not outweigh the broader public's substantial interest in modernizing this deteriorating and outmoded tunnel."
This is not necessarily the end of the lawsuit--it just means that there is nothing preventing DDOT from issuing the permits that would allow CSX to begin work on the project while the lawsuit continues to wind its way through the process.
See my Virginia Avenue Tunnel page for an overview of the project; and back in February I looked at the staging plans for the first few months of construction, which can begin once the required permits are in CSX's hands.
And perhaps this is as good a time as any to mention that CSX's next quarterly open house is scheduled for April 23 from 4:30 to 7:30 pm at the Courtyard by Marriott at 140 L St., SE.
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* SOUTH CAPITOL SPEED CAMERAS: MPD has announced the latest batch of speed camera deployments, and it includes South Capitol Street between O Street and Potomac Avenue--alongside Nationals Park and just north of the Douglass Bridge--in both directions. "The 30 day educational phase, or 'warning period', will commence on or about March 23, 2015. During this period, violators will receive warning citations. After the 30 day warning period, MPD will begin issuing live moving citations to violators."
* NATS PARK MAGNETOMETERS: There was a media event on Monday to unveil the new magnetometers at all entrances to Nats Park. (I'll note that this sign about the procedures will probably not be met with glee.) I wasn't at the event, but I did get my own shot on Sunday of the new installations at the Center Field Gate, as you see at right. The new security screening procedures will be in place starting with the April 4 exhibition game against the Yankees. Arrive early! (WaPo)
* US-NY CIRCULATOR CHANGE: "From 3/29, catch the Union Station bus to Navy Yard only at Mass Ave and Columbus Cir 1st & 2nd St stops discontinued." (@DCCirculator; more here)
* YARDS PARK WORK: "We're almost ready for Splash Season! Please 'pardon our dust' as we prepare the water features and basin. We'll update here when finished!" (@YardsPark)
* PEEKING AT CSX: At right is a shot of the now-cleared area just south of the freeway and behind the 70 and 100 Capitol Yards apartment buildings. This work has had hearts aflutter that there could be some new development coming there, but it is actually just CSX clearing its considerable tract of land as prep work continues for the Virginia Avenue Tunnel.
* PEEKING AT EVERYTHING ELSE: I'm going to have to recalibrate my normal mission to over-document projects in blog posts, given the breadth of work underway in the neighborhood. That said, I can't pass up a quick sharing of the cellphone photos I took Sunday afternoon while peeking through fences at the Homewood Suites, 82 I, Hampton Inn/Ballpark Square, and 909 Half sites. (Click all to enlarge.) It would have been even better if I had included the other holes in the ground, at 1111 New Jersey, 800 New Jersey, and Florida Rock, but I failed.
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More posts: CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel, South Capitol St., Nationals Park, Traffic Issues
 

Everybody enjoying their snow day? (Except for those of you who work for places that don't close, like, say, daily newspapers.) This was a nice little snow, but I remain spoiled by the ghost of 2009-10, the winter that this snow lover will always remember. (This Nats Park shot is from Feb. 7, 2010, in between the two mammoth snowstorms. It was a pretty different neighborhood that I traisped around in getting photos....)
On to the tidbits:
* SNOW CANCELLATIONS: The BID's Mardi Gras celebration planned for today has been cancelled (except for beads still being handed out), and the Van Ness Elementary fundraiser at Nando's has been rescheduled for March 24. (But the latter gives me an excuse to mention that I have finally built a Van Ness project page!)
* SNOW CANCELLATIONS/CSX: Today was supposed to be the hearing on the Committee of 100's move for an injunction to prevent CSX from moving forward on the Virginia Avenue Tunnel until the lawsuit itself is heard, but Mother Nature has forced a postponement, to a date to be determined. But you can still read the Post's preview piece on the hearing.
* TRAPEZE SCHOOL MOVE: It had started to seem like the Trapeze School's long-planned move to the southwest corner of Spooky Park at New Jersey and Tingey wasn't necessarily a given, but HillNow reports that the school has now confirmed the move, likely to happen this fall. In the meantime, there's a zoning case to be heared in March to allow them to stay in their current spot during this year, while their new home is prepped.
* SECURITY THEATER: The photo of construction outside the Nats Park centerfield gate at right that I posted a few weeks back brought much speculation, but it's now confirmed that the work was/is to install magnetometers (WaPo).
* CHANGE AT WILLIE'S: Eater DC reports that both chef Rock Harper and his brother/general manager Ed Howard have left Willie's Brew & Que. No hints on why.
* THE GLOBAL REACH OF SNARK: Technically off-topic, but I learned last week that tossing out snarky comments on Twitter can sometimes have a reach beyond just my followers. (See paragraph #5.) Thank heavens I spelled "artisanal" correctly.
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More posts: CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel, Nationals Park, trapezeschool, Van Ness Elementary, willies, Parcel A/Yards
 

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.
If you were unable to attend, the meeting boards are here, covering a wide range of topics.
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.)
Air, noise, and vibration monitoring stations will be set up soon at a number of locations along the construction zone, as part of the overall construction mitigation plan.
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):
* Safety
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 (subscription req.).
CSX representatives have told me that, until the judge tells them otherwise, they will continue to move forward on the project.
I point you to my Virginia Avenue Tunnel project page for more information and for photos of the length of the street, and to CSX's Virginia Avenue Tunnel web site as well.
All told, the project is supposed to last somewhere between 30 and 42 months. Give or take.
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This morning's Approved Building Permits feed included an entry that you might imagine immediately caught my eye:
861 NEW JERSEY AVE SE
BCIV1400064 / CONSTRUCTION
THE VIRGINIA AVENUE TUNNEL RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT WILL MODIFY THE EXISTING CSX OWNED-AND-OPERATED TUNNEL AND TRACKS IN SE WASHINGTON DC APPROXIMATELY FROM SOUTH CAPITOL STREET TO WATER ST SE AND UNDERNEATH THE EASTBOUND LANES OF VIRGINIA AVE SE.
I wondered, Is this the biggie? The one that would allow start of construction on the expanded Virginia Avenue Tunnel, if lawsuits and judges don't bring a halt (temporarily or permanently) to the proceedings?
I contacted CSX, and was told that no, this permit is just to allow the start of site-preparation work on CSX property at both ends of the tunnel, and does not cover any work that might occur on public space.
Construction trailers are expected to appear within the next few weeks at the New Jersey Avenue site, and there will also be "some minor work on CSX property at the north end of the tunnel."
As for the project itself, to expand the single-track tunnel into two one-track tunnels, those permits are not yet issued.
If you have questions about this permit or about any other part of the project (!!!), CSX is holding an open house on Thursday, Feb. 5, from 4:30 to 7:30 pm at the Courtyard by Marriott at 140 L St., SE., in the Admiral Ballroom.
In the announcement of the open house, CSX says that it will be providing information "about upcoming construction activities near the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, including the general locations where activity will occur, the type of activities and a preliminary schedule."
There will be "information displays detailing constructions activities, locations and timelines," and "representatives of CSX and Clark/Parsons, CSX’s design-build contractor, will be on hand throughout the event to answer questions."
But of greater interest may be the ability to register for the "CSX-funded pre-construction inspection program," which will allow construction-area residents and property owners to "document the current interior and exterior condition of properties and will help expedite processing of any construction-related claims that may be made in the future."
The company is offering a free shuttle to the hotel from the Capper Seniors building at 900 5th St., SE.
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* M STREET CLOSURE: DDOT has put out the word that M Street SE between 8th and 11th will be closed on Saturday, Dec. 13 from 6 am to 9 pm, weather permitting, to complete final surface paving and striping between 10th and 11th.
* CSX OUTREACH: There may be a lawsuit pending, but that hasn't stopped CSX from giving their Virginia Avenue Tunnel web site a big makeover, and also rebranding the existing Twitter account as @VATNews. The web site has all sorts of new sections and documents, though I would imagine Opinions Differ in some quarters about the contents.
* METRO PAYMENT PILOT: Navy Yard-Ballpark is one of the Metro stations that's part of WMATA's Payment Pilot program, testing out the "secure fare payment system of the future" that will allow the use of NFC-equipped credit cards and smartphones. So, if you've seen a shiny new fare gate being installed at the station lately, this is why. The program is expected to start in January, and you can still apply to be a tester
* BOATHOUSE EXPANSION: (Boats are transportation, right?) The Hill Rag reports that there are plans underway to renovate facilities along Boathouse Row, the stretch of marinas and buildings along the west side of the Anacostia between the 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue bridges. The Historic Anacostia Boating Association outlined for ANC 6B last month a proposed facility with a 228-slip marina, a pier for water taxis, and a boat ramp, along with other outdoor activity space. Fundraising is apparently now underway.
(And of course I'm sure you already read my post from yesterday about the Circulator's planned extension of the Navy Yard route into Southwest.)
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More posts: Boathouse Row, CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel, Metro/WMATA, Traffic Issues
 

In a move that will surprise absolutely no one, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City is announcing today that a lawsuit is being filed to challenge last week's Record of Decision on the Virginia Avenue Tunnel.
In a press release, the committee's vice president, Monte Edwards, is quoted thusly: "The official Record of Decision fails to address the severe safety and security impacts the proposed project will have on the immediate community and on Capitol Hill, the constraint on the expansion of passenger and commuter rail service in the District, and the pre-approval by DDOT of the project before any environmental review had been conducted."
OJ Simpson-era readers will recognize this phrasing: "Edwards also emphasized that there is no need to rush-to-judgment on the CSX proposal. The EIS expressly states that the current CSX tunnel has 'decades' left of useful service."
Also an Edwards quote: "Issuance of the Record of Decision ends the administrative process, and litigation is the only option to obtain a new EIS that addresses our concerns. Until we have a new EIS, no permits should be granted by the District or federal officials."
The group also plans to file a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop any further action until the court issues a ruling.
There will be a press conference on the front steps of the US District Courthouse this morning at 11 am.
UPDATE: Here's the statement from CSX in response:
"The reconstruction of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel has been approved by the Federal and District of Columbia governments following a lengthy public oversight, review and comment process that shaped the final design of this project. CSX is committed to doing this project the right way, safely, respecting our neighbors and working closely with residents and businesses to minimize impacts and to ensure that they are informed about construction plans. Modernizing this tunnel will help alleviate freight and passenger rail delays and stimulate economic growth by removing a significant transportation bottleneck. CSX believes the project should move forward promptly."
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(STOP ALL THE NEWS TODAY! I CAN'T TAKE IT!)
This afternoon--5 pm on Election Day--the Federal Highway Administration released its Record of Decision on the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project, which approves the chosen preferred alternative for the project, while also approving "short-term closures of I-695 ramps at 6th and 8th Streets SE" and "occupancy of a portion of the 11th Street Bridge right-of-way located on I-695."
It also brings to a close the NEPA process on the project that began a thousand years ago, give or take. (Okay, it took about three years.)
This design will replace the current tunnel with two new permanent tunnels, constructed sequentially. It is expected to take somewhere between 30 to 42 months to complete.
CSX immediately issued a press release saying that this decision will enable the company "to complete the tunnel’s design and initiate the construction permitting process" with the District Department of Transportation.
CSX's release also says that "major construction is expected to begin in the next several months, following receipt of the required permits." But somehow I am guessing that the path from this ROD to shovels in the ground isn't necessarily a smooth one, especially since the Committee of 100 has already let it be known that any decision short of an indefinite delay of the project would result in a lawsuit.
The entire ROD document is close to 300 pages long--feel free to dive right in.
I'll update as more statements, stories, and rending of garments come in.
UPDATE: Here's the Post's initial story, and a lengthy quote from it: "CSX Transportation can now move into the local permitting phase, followed by what could be about three and a half years of construction. Although the company must obtain permits from the city to move forward, there is every indication that the process will go smoothly. Even before completion of the mandated National Environmental Policy Act review, the D.C. Department of Transportation had agreed to let CSX take over the roads near the tunnel for the purpose of rebuilding it. Crews could start securing the site as early as this fall, officials said."
UPDATE II: A quote from page 3 of the ROD, about the approach to the tunnel work: "Implementation of the Selected Alternative will involve replacing the existing Virginia Avenue Tunnel with two new permanent tunnels constructed sequentially. The south side tunnel will be constructed first as train traffic will continue to use the existing tunnel. Once completed, train traffic will shift to the new south side tunnel, and the existing tunnel will be demolished. Most of the north wall of the existing tunnel will remain in place so that the structural integrity of the I-695 viaduct will not be affected. Following demolition, the north side tunnel will be constructed. At the end of construction, each new tunnel will have a single railroad track with enough vertical clearance to allow double-stack intermodal container freight trains. "
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A few tidbits to throw your way, but first let's start off with one of my favorite photos, taken eight years ago yesterday while standing at 1st and M. You can see more shots from Sept. 17, 2006 in the archive.
* UNLEASHED BY PETCO: It was rumored back in May, and there's still been no official announcement from Forest City, but a building permit issued last week seems to be the final confirmation that Unleashed by Petco is coming to the Boilermaker Shops.
* CSX: The Post reports that "It could be a few weeks before the Federal Highway Administration releases a decision on the proposed expansion of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel in Southeast Washington." The "Record of Decision" hasn't yet been finalized. In the meantime, the Committee of 100 has let it be known that any decision short of an indefinite delay will result in a lawsuit. (Shocker!)
* HALF STREET: WBJ talks to new Half Street poobah Jair Lynch about his group's plans for the Half Street hole, now that they've bought it from Monument Realty. "While the project is expected to remain a mix of residential, retail and hotel, Lynch said he is now considering condos in addition to apartments, tweaking unit sizes, adding green features and amenities and bringing in a 'completely different retail mix.'" (Longtime area observers note that in Monument's original plans, the two residential buildings at the south end of the block were planned to be condos and apartments. And of course it's easy to "change" the retail mix when there isn't any to begin with.) They hope to get underway by 2016, WBJ says.
* MLB LATE NIGHT WITH METRO: WTOP: "Although the Washington Nationals have clinched the NL East, the team has not reached a deal with Metro to keep trains running past midnight during home playoff games." The Metro policy is that the Nationals would have to pay at $29,500 deposit to stay open an extra hour during the week; some of you may remember that back in 2012, the Nats did not step forward to pay, so Livingsocial offered to foot the bill.
 
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