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Near Southeast DC Past News Items: CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel
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79 Blog Posts Since 2003
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Hi, you may remember me, I was once a blogger.
I've managed to summon the herculean strength necessary to pull myself out of the summer doldrums, but I'm left with only just enough energy to pass along these tidbits:
* SCARLET L(BR)UNCH: Lunch service at Scarlet Oak is expected to begin around Aug. 13, with a menu that will include more salads and sandwiches, according to City Paper. Brunch service is expected to begin later in August.
* 25 M AGAIN: Many many many moons ago, Akridge unveiled plans for 373,000 square feet of office space in two buildings at 25 M, the southwest corner of Half and M Streets, where the Fairgrounds currently resides. Now, nearly eight years and two property sales later, it's been announced that Akridge and new landowner Brandywine Realty Trust will be developing a 275,000 square feet of office space in one building on the site, which will also include 25,000 square feet of retail. It will be designed by HOK "to create a landmark presence at one of the most visible intersections" in the city, offering tenants "incredible visibility, branding, and communications opportunity." No timeline for this was mentioned. (And we're still waiting to hear what JBG will be doing with the south end of the Fairgrounds block.)
* FOR THE LADIES: There's now a nursing room at Nats Park.
* GARBER ON THE RUN: As astute observers once predicted, former #NavyYard ANC commissioner David Garber has announced his candidacy in the 2016 race for the at-large council seat currently occupied by Vincent Orange.
* TUNNEL OPEN HOUSE: The next quarterly CSX/Virginia Avenue Tunnel open house is Thursday, Aug. 13, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Courtyard by Marriott at 140 L St. SE. No formal presentation, but lots of project representatives will be on hand to answer questions and provide updates.
UPDATE: Should have also mentioned that there will be fireworks after tonight's Nats game (Aug. 7). The Yards Park is a particularly fine place to watch them, if you haven't already found that out.
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More posts: JBG/Akridge Half St., ballpark, CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel, politics, scarletoak

CSX's monthly "Coffee with Chuck" was this morning, and while I didn't attend, that isn't stopping me from glomming onto the presentation slides that have already been posted on the official web site.
Contained therein were three slides that I think will be of particular interest: the latest schedules for expected street closures and lane reductions as well as when the various intersections with Virginia Avenue will be temporarily closed to install decking.
(I'm also including CSX's graphic of what the be-decked intersections will look like.)
If you aren't bothering to click to enlarge (for shame!), here's some highlights:
* Expect the section of Virginia Avenue between 3rd and 4th to be completely closed in early October.
* The work to begin creating the temporary decking on the cross streets will begin first at 11th Street, with 8-10 weeks of reduced lanes starting next month. (A shame this didn't happen during all of that OTHER work along the same stretch of 11th....)
* It appears that the intersection at 4th and Virginia won't have a complete closure during its decking, but will see 3-4 weeks of reduced lanes beginning in October.
* The intersections with 3rd, 5th/6th (man, I hate that intersection), and 7th will be the ones that will have up to two weeks of complete closures while the decking is installed, with another few weeks of reduced lanes, but this schedule indicates those won't happen before spring of 2016.
In other Tunnel Disruption Alerts, CSX sent out word earlier today that there will be interruptions to Comcast Services on Aug. 6 and 7 while the company performs "cable splicing," though the alert indicates that this will primarily impact very nearby residences and businesses south of the freeway.
CSX's next quarterly open house is scheduled for Aug. 13, plus you can have Coffee with Chuck on Aug. 19, Sept. 30, and Oct. 21.
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More posts: CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel

It's still relatively early in the process, but let's take a look at the changes that have already been put in place thanks to the start of construction on the Virginia Avenue Tunnel.
The closure of Virginia between 4th and 5th Streets, SE (seen here) has probably had the greatest impact so far, preventing vehicles from taking Virginia toward 8th Street (and its outbound ramp to I-695) unless one goes south on 4th to K, then north on 5th.
According to CSX, there will be increased prep work at this location this week, and it could see the start of drilling for steel and concrete pilings as early as the week of July 20.
Immediately to the south, the stockade fences are going up in front of the nearby townhomes, and the little stub of I Street has been closed east of 4th and east of the alley that runs between the townhouses and St. Paul's (see below left, click to enlarge). The I Street "hook" into Virginia Avenue will not reopen--the pocket park in this location will be reconfigured and enlarged once construction is finished.
Some moving of dirt has actually begun, as you see above in the shot of Virginia Avenue east of 2nd, alongside the stretch of road that was closed a few weeks ago.
The initial cutting down of trees along Virginia is particularly noticeable west of 3rd, as shown in this comparison of a 2007 photo and one from today (more before-and-afters of this intersection here):
According to the latest updates from CSX, parking will be restricted this week on Virginia between 3rd and 4th to allow for more cutting down of trees. And it's expected that perhaps as early as next week Virginia Avenue will be closed between 8th and 9th. (The numbered cross streets remain open.)
One other closure worth photographing is the underpass just to the south of Garfield Park, where skateboarders can still congregate (yay?), but is now closed to any attempts to get completely south of the freeway.
CSX is holding another one of its "Coffee with Chuck" events on Thursday, July 23 from 7:30 to 9 am at the Courtyard by Marriott at 140 L St., SE, in case you'd like to hear the latest updates and ask questions of the chief project engineer. (RSVPs requested.) Slides from the June ChucKlatch have been posted as well.
There's also now the option to receive updates on the project via SMS, should you wish.
The Virginia Avenue Tunnel official web site has more, and I've started getting my own Virginia Avenue Tunnel page prepped for the expected onslaught of before-and-afters
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I'm now back from a much-needed respite in north-central and northeast Wyoming, where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play (sometimes in your yard), and where the skies are (mostly) not cloudy all day.
While I'm miffed that all work in Near Southeast did not grind to a halt while I was gone, I will still pass along these quick tidbits of news, for those who weren't doing their own newsgathering over the past 10 days.
* CRANES A'PLENTY: The residential projects at 801 New Jersey and 1111 New Jersey have now joined the lineup of sites where tower cranes are in place. This of course means that vertical construction at these locations won't be too far off, should everything go according to plan. And there's probably a crane coming before long at 909 Half as well. (Speaking of cranes, they are often lightning rods--literally, as the Dock 79 crane found out last week.)
* ROADS A'CLOSING: On Wednesday, June 24, Virginia Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets SE was closed and fenced, as part of initial Virginia Avenue Tunnel work. And a missive from CSX a few days ago says that the expectation is that Virginia will close between 4th and 5th "on or about" Wednesday, July 1. (But the cross streets will remain open.) Drivers will need to use K Street over to 5th to then continue north under the freeway, or to continue east on Virginia Avenue until that portion of road is closed as well.
* PIZZA PIZZA: There's still the pesky detail of actual construction, but at last a building permit has been approved for Nicoletta, the pizza/pasta carryout kiosk long planned by Osteria Morini's Chef Michael White in one of the small retail bays beneath the Yards Park overlook, on the Riverwalk.
* BARDO DELAYED: The plans for an outdoor park and "brew garden" on the west end of the Florida Rock site are "now looking like a fall opening," according to WBJ--"if we're lucky." "Red tape" is the reason given. WBJ also notes that the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign that was looking for $200,000 to help fund the venture closed with $4,330 in contributions.
There's probably more to come, but that's good enough for now.
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More posts: 1111 New Jersey, 82i, CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel, development, Florida Rock, nicoletta

The meat of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel expansion project appears to be edging closer, as CSX sent out an announcement today with a preliminary heads up that the first full "for the duration" closures could happen by the end of June:
* Virginia Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets, SE, will close to traffic and parking "as soon as Monday, June 22."
* Virginia Avenue between 4th and 5th Streets, SE, will close to traffic and parking "as soon as Monday, June 29."
In both cases, fencing will be installed along the project site's perimeter, plus a temporary sidewalk will be installed between 2nd and 3rd.
Look for traffic to increase on the detour routes along I and/or K Streets in these blocks.
In addition, the recreation area under the Southeast Freeway/I-695 at 2nd Street will not be accessible from the south, which means no walking to and from Garfield Park in that spot until tunnel construction is cleared from that location. (The rec area will still be accessible, but only from the north/Garfield Park side.) There will also be fencing installed along the south side of Garfield Park by the rec area.
There will also be temporary closures of the left lane of Virginia Avenue between 5th and 7th Streets for a few weeks, starting perhaps as early as June 17.
This doesn't mean the start of actual digging or pile driving is nigh in these blocks--there are still apparently utility relocations and "other preparations" to complete before excavation work is to begin.
And when they say "as soon as," they really are doing a bit of ballparking. So if the blocks don't close on the above dates, don't assume that they've changed their minds.
For more about the project, check out my Virginia Avenue Tunnel page or the official web site.
Note: I'm not going to pass along every single construction update from CSX, so best to join the mailing list or follow the project on Twitter if you require minute-by-minute information, but I will highlight big milestones as they are announced.
UPDATE: I've said it so many times that I didn't think about mentioning it AGAIN, but I will mention AGAIN that the cross-streets in the zone of the project--3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th--will all remain open, allowing for continued vehicle and pedestrian traffic across Virginia and under the freeway. At some point there will be closures of a number of days to install the wooden planking on the intersections above the tunnel digging, but those streets are not scheduled to close for months and months. And neither is the exit ramp from the freeway to 6th Street, though all cars will have to turn left/north and go under the freeway.
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More posts: CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel

A missive from CSX just now:
"CSX today started the major construction phase of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel Project. The support of excavation work now underway consists of drilling 42-inch holes for steel and concrete pilings that will support a temporary retaining wall necessary to construct the first new permanent tunnel elements. This work is taking place at the west end of the project site in public space near 2nd and H Streets, S.E."
It goes on to say that similar work will get underway at the eastern end of the tunnel near 11th & M SE "within the next few weeks."
As always, to get more information, check out my Virginia Avenue Tunnel page (which probably needs a bit of freshening) or the official web site, where you can also sign up to be on the project mailing list.
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More posts: CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel

Today Judge Christopher Cooper has denied the Committee of 100's appeal of his April ruling denying the group's request for an injunction to prevent CSX from moving forward on the Virginia Avenue Tunnel construction while the C100 lawsuit works its way through the process.
Quoting from the order: "The Committee contends that new information gleaned from the recently-produced administrative record demonstrates that the federal and local agencies involved in the environmental review of the reconstruction project unlawfully predetermined its outcome. The Court concludes, however, that the Committee’s new evidence does not satisfy its burden to demonstrate that the agencies failed objectively to consider the environmental impacts of the reconstruction. Accordingly, it will deny the motion."
The Committee of 100 had filed their appeal in May, saying that new access to the "full record in the case," all 130,000 pages of it, showed "persuasive evidence of improper predetermination that was not available to the District Court" at the time of the initial injunction denial. But Judge Cooper wrote that "the portions of the administrative record provided by the Committee do not support its position that DDOT unlawfully predetermined the NEPA outcome or that FHWA failed to independently consider the environmental effects of the tunnel reconstruction."
You can read the full opinion/order for more detail.
(And, whaddya know, C100 is still using my photo on their web site! UPDATE, 5/27: It took a bit of back-and-forth, but the photo is now taken down.)
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More posts: CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel

A series of press releases over the past few weeks have said that initial utility relocation work was about to get underway Any Minute Now at the intersection of 4th and Virginia, but today the wishcasting seems to have finally come true, as you can see.
In addition, it was announced that "as soon as" today, "utility relocation work will start near the intersections of Virginia Avenue and 5th, 6th, 8th and 11th Streets, S.E." And indeed I spied work underway today at the corner of 8th and Virginia as well.
"Work will include surveying, pavement removal, trenching and other activities associated with utility relocations. Traffic lanes in these areas may be shifted and some parking spaces will be occupied. Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians should use caution when traveling through this area and be prepared to follow temporary traffic controls. This work is expected to continue through September."
Another item scheduled to happen Any Minute Now is the fencing of a significant portion of Virginia Avenue Park, on a line that will spare the community garden but will bring about the closure of the dog park. (I saw no evidence of any fence just now on the park's western end at 9th Street, but I can't confirm or deny any work elsewhere in the park at this moment.)
As stated in CSX's release on the matter: "Access to the portion of the park being fenced will be restricted through the duration of the tunnel project. CSX apologizes for any inconveniences that these restrictions may create. Access will be restored and enhancements will be made to the park at the completion of the tunnel-construction project. "
In other words, unless something happens with the lawsuit, this is the beginning of a many-months-long stretch of work just to the south of the freeway.
If you wish to pelt an official with questions about it all, you can join CSX assistant vice president Chuck Gullakson for "Coffee with Chuck" on May 20 from 7:30 to 9:30 am at the Courtyard by Marriott (RSVP here).
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More posts: CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel

The Post reported on Monday that the Committee of 100 has filed an appeal of the recent ruling denying its injunction motion, with an emergency motion to reverse the previous ruling and to "suspend the effectiveness of the Environmental Impact Statement, thereby preventing construction of CSX's Virginia Avenue Tunnel until the Court can issue a decision on the merits of the case."
Sayeth the Post: "Last month, District Court Judge Christopher R. Cooper ruled that rebuilding the 111-year-old tunnel is in the best interest of the public, and said that the Committee failed to establish grounds for a preliminary injunction."
The actual lawsuit, which "questions the legality and transparency of the project's federal environmental review process and says there were violations of federal and DC law," is still pending.
In the meantime, initial site work has supposedly now gotten underway at 2nd and 4th streets, though I have not witnessed this with my own eyes when I last looked on Monday evening. The official web site is posting updates on items related to the project, should you wish more information.
And by the way, Committee of 100, I'm pretty sure that's a bad blow-up of one of my photos you are repeatedly using on your site, without permission or attribution. Your teams of lawyers should know better. (UPDATE, 5/7: I've received an apology from them, and they've taken down the photo, for which I thank them on both counts.)
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More posts: CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel

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
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