Near Southeast DC: Past News Items
CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel
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The Fight Over CSX's Hazardous Materials Transportation
Dec 5, 2013 1:58 PM
Opponents of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel
expansion have been passing to me today this article from ThinkProgress
(on its ClimateProgress site) about the fight over transporting hazardous materials by rail through DC, specifically through the temporary open trench that is part of the draft plans
for the Virginia Avenue Tunnel expansion project.
describes the "tense" public meeting two weeks ago at Capper Senior #1 with Eleanor Holmes Norton and representatives of CSX, DDOT, and the Federal Highway Administration. It also gives some history of the city's so-far-unsuccessful fight--and CSX's intense fight of that fight--that began a decade ago to ban hazmat rail transport through the heart of the city.
The article concludes:
"Until CSX can come up with a better alternative for re-routing trains during construction, the residents are gunning for approval of the DEIS’s option number one: No build.
"'For now, our logic is that you inform the public and the media, and they put pressure on the industry to do things safer,' [hazmat consultant Dr. Fred] Millar said. 'At the very least, making it difficult for them to ship crude oil like peanut butter is something we all ought to do.'"
(It's a shame that the article's title, "The Inside Story of the Plan to Send Hazardous Materials Through the Heart of DC," makes it sound like some hazmat materials aren't already coming through town and through the existing tunnel, because they certainly are, as the article goes on to show.)
CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel
Saturday Community Meeting on Virginia Avenue Tunnel
Nov 22, 2013 3:42 PM
On Saturday, Nov. 23, DC delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is having a meeting with residents
to discuss the CSX/Virginia Avenue Tunnel project
. It's at 2 pm at the Capper Seniors building at 900 5th St., SE.
With the Environmental Impact Statement for the project expected to be released before too much longer (you can see the draft EIS here
), residents are seeing this as perhaps a last opportunity to voice their concerns and push back against what one resident called Norton's willingness "to simply regurgitate CSX talking points" in a recent press release
A train fire last week
that began in the tunnel also has the residents who have been fighting the project intensifying their efforts to get answers they are seeking on health and safety concerns.
To that end, a new web site has also been launched, DCSafeRail.org
, to lay out residents' arguments.
There was a considerable kerfuffle after Saturday's meeting, at which Federal Highway Administration rep Michael Hicks said, "They're going to have to close the interstate, two exit points on the Interstate, 6th and 8th St., I believe, for the duration of the project...So that's why I'm involved." Putting aside that the only 8th Street SE exit
is on the north side of the freeway and so would be nearly impossible to be impacted by the tunnel construction, this statement went against the Draft Environmental Impact Statement as well as many comments by CSX and DDOT during the process that the 6th Street exit ramp would not be closed.
As I expected, there is now a statement that's been sent out by CSX, from Hicks:
"My apologies to the community, turns out I made a misstatement regarding the duration of closures of the 6th St exit and 8th Street on ramp to I-695 and I understand that statement, unfortunately, has gotten widespread exposure. Hopefully the clarification to follow is equally widespread; no highway ramps would be closed for the duration of construction. As outlined in the DEIS, erecting the temporary decks at 5th/6th and 8th Streets SE may require the short term closure (approximately a week or less) of I-695 ramps at these locations. CSX would work with DDOT, community leaders and local first responders to ensure access for community members in the event of emergencies!
"During the very preliminary stages of project development it was thought the ramps might possibly have to be closed; however, alternatives were developed that no longer required extended closures of those ramps. Again, I apologize for any concern or alarm my misstatement may have caused. Thank you."
Another Virginia Avenue Tunnel Meeting Scheduled for Sept. 27
Aug 20, 2012 11:24 AM
The August edition of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel newsletter
is out, with the news that another public meeting on the project is scheduled for Sept. 27, from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Capitol Skyline Hotel. The meeting is described as providing an update on the project and to "share information about the alternatives being evaluated in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)." In other words, this isn't the meeting to unveil the draft EIS, which is expected to come this fall.
There isn't much else of note in the newsletter (noise studies ongoing, Section 106 historic preservation review ongoing, how to comment, etc.), so I'll admit this post is mainly a sneaky way to once again point out my new Virginia Avenue Tunnel page
, where you can get an overview of this project and see the concepts currently being evaluated, along with plenty of photos from along the tunnel's path.
New Project Page: Virginia Avenue Tunnel Expansion
Jul 26, 2012 9:40 AM
A glaring hole in my "project page" lineup is being filled today, as I am at last unveiling an ultra-exciting Virginia Avenue Tunnel Expansion page
. (Um, yay?)
It's still just an overview at this point, since there is no design yet chosen and therefore all of the specifics that residents and neighbors are clamoring for about construction impacts and possible potential post-construction improvements to the street and its surroundings aren't yet available.
But I figured it was time to at least prepare for the inevitable before-and-afters with current photos from along the tunnel's 10-block footprint, plus it makes the current "concept designs" being reviewed by the EIS more easily accessible. And it also just finally gives me a page to point people to. (As with yesterday's development map refreshing
, this has only been on my To Do list for a couple of years. I've been busy. And lazy. Lazy and busy.)
There's been no new announcements since the last EIS meeting in May
; at that time, it was expected that a draft EIS would come out this fall, with a final decision in spring 2013. (Though other EIS schedules I've seen in the past have experienced some slippage, so we'll see how the tunnel's goes.)
Tuesday Tidbits: Bridge and Tunnel (and River) Edition
Jun 5, 2012 4:26 PM
* The Post writes about
Virginia Avenue residents battling CSX on tunnel plans
. (The comments section is festive as well.)
* The Navy Yard alerts folks
that the 11th & O gate to their part of the Riverwalk will be closed for approximately three weeks because of demolition work on the old outbound 11th Street Bridge
. (This means that the Navy Yard Riverwalk itself isn't closed, it just means you can only access it west of 11th Street.)
* Speaking of the old bridge, City Paper writes
that this demolition doesn't mean the end of the "recreation bridge across the Anacostia" idea, just that it was determined that it would be better to take off the old bridge deck than to try to maintain it while working on the recreation bridge idea, which will still need financial backing even after the design competition is held this fall.
* Speaking of the river, DDOT has launched AnacostiaWaterfront.org
as a new online home for information on projects along the river, such as the 11th Street Bridges, the planned new South Capitol Street Bridge and associated corridor upgrades, the Riverwalk, and other projects
* One tidbit unearthed
in the new web site: An environmental assessment is expected to start this fall on reconstructing Barney Circle and transforming the "easternmost dead-end section of the Southeast/Southwest Freeway into a boulevard between the circle and 11th Street, SE."
(As always, follow JDLand on Twitter
if you want quicker access to these types of tidbits, most of which I sent out over the past week or so.)
Virginia Avenue Tunnel Meeting Presentation Slides, Boards
May 29, 2012 11:51 AM
I wasn't able to attend last week's public meeting on the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, but the presentation slides
and display boards
are posted on the project's web site
This is the stage of the Environmental Impact study where the initial lineup of possible concepts
have been winnowed down to the four that will be evaluated for the final EIS:
* Concept 1 - "No Build" (i.e., leave as is);
* Concept 2
- Rebuild tunnel with a temporary track running in an open trench to the south of the existing tunnel;
* Concept 5
- "Permanent Twin Tunnels," with a new tunnel built via open trench to the south of the existing tunnel, which would be rebuilt as well;
* Concept 6
- "Rebuild Online," where the current tunnel would be rebuilt via open trench along the existing alignment, and trains would run in that same trench during construction.
Also contained in the slides
is information about how traffic would be routed with the closure of Virginia Avenue on the south side of the freeway between 2nd and 11th. As has always been stated, north/south traffic on the numbered streets would be maintained across Virginia, and temporary driveways/access are shown on 3rd and 4th Street for Capitol Quarter and the 200 I/225 Virginia loading dock. It's also shown that Virginia Avenue north of the freeway would become two-way between 6th and 8th streets, so that traffic exiting the Southeast Freeway at 6th would all be directed left under the freeway and then would be able to continue to 8th Street on Virginia.
There's also some slides
on the vibration and noise analyses being done, and how Virginia Avenue might be improved after construction is completed (with bike lanes being a possibility, which immediately warmed David Garber's heart
The draft Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be released this fall, in which the design for construction will be identified; the entire process would be completed in spring, 2013. Comments can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org
or via the web site
This Week: Virginia Ave. Tunnel, M St. Meetings, First Front Flick
May 20, 2012 11:30 AM
To allow you to properly plan your calendar for the week, I'm posting this nice and early:
* Virginia Avenue Tunnel
: Monday night is another public meeting
on the planned Virginia Avenue Tunnel reconstruction
, at which it's expected that DDOT, FHWA, and CSX will be presenting the concepts that have been chosen from the original batch
to study in detail as part of the project's EIS
. The meeting is at Nationals Park
at 6 pm.
And, speaking of the tunnel, the noise and vibration field studies required as part of the EIS will be happening this week
. (But no fair stomping on the ground and gunning your car's engines for hours at a time.)
* M Street SE/SW Transportation Study
: The meeting to update the public on the progress of the M Street SE/SW Transportation Study
is on Thursday, May 24, from 6:30 pm to 8 pm
at the Capitol Skyline Hotel, 10 I St. SW. The study area covers
the stretch of M from 12th Street, SE to 14th Street, SW, along with the adjacent areas from the Southeast/Southwest Freeway south to the Anacostia River/Washington Channel. DDOT is looking at "how to integrate transit, bicycling and walking with motor vehicle traffic," while also trying to figure out how to balance residents' preferences for how M Street should be configured versus how visitors, workers, and commuters expect it to flow. The first meeting was in January
, and the final report is expected in the fall.
* Front Flicks
: If you are looking for something slightly more entertaining than either of the week's meetings, don't forget that the Capitol Riverfront BID's free Front Flicks Summer Outdoor Movie Series
begins this week on Thursday, with "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" leading off the lineup of treasure hunt-themed offerings. Movies start either at 8:45 pm/sundown at Tingey Plaza, just behind USDOT
at New Jersey and Tingey.
Alas, I won't be at any of these events, because first thing Tuesday I'm headed to the disabled list, to get some health issues dealt with that have been dragging me down for awhile now. There will be a few weeks of recovery time, so I ask all parties to please refrain from making any news before, say, mid-June, or at least make it something simple and/or something that won't require my attendance. (DDOT is already On Notice if they do indeed partially open the 11th Street Local bridge
when I can't document it.)
I imagine I'll reappear on Twitter
fairly quickly, since I know better than to think I can stay off the Internet while I'm doing little but laying around. But most likely the bulk of my narcotics-tinged/boredom-induced missives will be via my non-official @jacdupree
account, if you want the entertainment.
In the meantime, feel free to use this post's comments to discuss this week's meetings and as a general open thread, but I will be watching and popping in, so don't you kids think you can throw a wild party while Mom's not looking! And hopefully I'll be back to photo taking and other obsessive-compulsive pursuits before too long.
ANC 6D Recap 2: Canal Park, Community Center, CSX Letter
May 15, 2012 1:35 PM
Moving from the "P" portion of Monday's ANC 6D meeting (pylons and parking
) to the "C"s:
* Canal Park
: Chris Vanarsdale of the Canal Park Development Association gave an update on construction, the bottom line of which has not changed from what's been mentioned the past few months, that because of unexpected issues, the park's opening has been delayed until November. Unmapped utilities that required a redesign of the stormwater management system have been a big stumbling block, but Vanarsdale also mentioned the soil-related difficulties when building on the site of an old canal. Construction is now 60 percent complete, and the work on the pavilion is almost done. Here are the presentation slides
, and you can also check out the official web site
for more details (along with my project page
). Oh, and they're thinking about offering Zamboni driving lessons!
* Community Center
: The DC Housing Authority has filed a request with the Zoning Commission for an extension for construction of the planned Capper Community Center
, which already received one extension back in 2010
that 6D supported
. DCHA has apparently requested that the Zoning Commission act within 30 days on the request, news of which the ANC received on Monday. So the commissioners voted unanimously to send a letter urging postponement of the zoning case so that the ANC can address the request and form a response with a vote at next month's meeting. Commissioners Litsky and McBee also both commented that the project shouldn't be getting another extension.
Here is the letter sent on behalf of DCHA
to the Zoning Commission asking for the extension: it would be for two years, requiring building permits by July 1, 2014 and construction underway by July 1, 2015.
* CSX/Virginia Avenue Tunnel
: The commissioners voted 6-0-1 to send this letter
to the appropriate parties laying out the ANC's opinion on the plans to reconfigure the Virginia Avenue Tunnel
. After listing the various ways that the proposed construction "would put people, homes, businesses, and fragile historic resources at risk," the letter states: "[W]e strongly believe that the best options for our community are for CSX to either leave the Virginia Avenue Tunnel in its current state (Concept 1) -- with the suggestion that if this option were chosen that the tunnel would be fully maintained for the safety of both the trains below and the communities above, or to reroute additional train traffic outside the District of Columbia [...] instead of in an expanded Virginia Avenue Tunnel." But, if the construction does occur, "it is absolutely imperative that the health and safety of our many residents, the economic and physical well-being of our businesses, parks, religious institutions, homes, and historic buildings, and the north-south access for all existing modes of transportation be preserved and enhanced." A number of Capitol Quarter
residents in attendance also spoke in support of the ANC's support. The next public meeting
on the plans for the tunnel will be May 21 at 6:30 pm at Nats Park.
One more recap post to go, probably tomorrow.
Next Virginia Avenue Tunnel Public Meeting May 21
May 4, 2012 9:06 AM
, just posted on the Virginia Avenue Tunnel Project web site
, announces that the next public meeting about the project will be on May 21 from 6 to 8 pm at Nationals Park
. "During this public meeting, the concepts to move forward in the EIS will be announced." Read my post from Wednesday
for more information on the whole EIS thing, and this one from the last meeting
to find out more about the initial concepts that were looked at, and that will form the basis for the ones chosen to be studied further.
Study of Virginia Avenue Tunnel Project Switches to EIS Format
May 3, 2012 8:51 AM
Earlier this week the Federal Highway Administration and DDOT gave notice
that the in-process National Environmental Policy Act
study of CSX's Virginia Avenue Tunnel project will be switching mid-stream from an Environmental Assessment to a more detailed Environmental Impact Statement study.
Since the outcome of an EA is often the instigation of an EIS, this is probably serving mainly to speed up the process and get started on an EIS that most likely would have been needed anyway. The NEPA web site
mentions that "[i]f a federal agency anticipates that an undertaking may significantly impact the environment, or if a project is environmentally controversial, a federal agency may choose to prepare an EIS without having to first prepare an EA," both of which would certainly seem to be ways this project could be described.
If you want to see how extensive an EIS can be, check out the ones completed for the 11th Street Bridges reconstruction
and the planned South Capitol Street corridor improvements
already gathered and feedback
already garnered during the EA process will be incorporated into the EIS. CSX representatives tell me that they expect the switch to add about six months to the environmental review process, and the project's web site
now has a Spring 2013 date listed for the Final EIS/record of decision. CSX has always wanted the project to be done in 2015, to coincide with the opening of the expanded Panama Canal, but that timeline is starting to look a bit dicey given that construction has been expected to take 2-3 years.
The public meeting to unveil the chosen "alternative" designs that the EIS is studying is currently being planned. You can read my write-up from the last meeting
to see more about the initial group of concept designs, which ranged from expanding the tunnel to building a separate parallel tunnel to leaving the tunnel untouched to
closing it and having CSX reroute all their traffic
rerouting the double-stack traffic and through traffic out of the city (UPDATED
to fix my mistake--there is no proposal that would close the tunnel altogether). (It probably isn't hard to guess which alternatives are preferred by the Capitol Quarter Homeowners Association
, with CQ's homes on Virginia Avenue standing mere feet away from any construction.) UPDATE
: It's been requested that I mention that, while the CQ HoA letter above lists a group of possible signatories, at least three of them (ANC 6B, Barracks Row Main Street, and the Committee of 100) have all already voted against co-signing the letter.
For those blissfully unaware of this project (I wish!), CSX is needing to expand the 105-year-old tunnel that runs beneath Virginia Avenue between 2nd and 12th streets, SE so that a second track can be added and double-height cars can be accommodated. With initial plans calling for the extended closure of Virginia Avenue and a temporary track in an open trench to run trains through during construction, residents on both sides of the freeway have been greatly concerned about how the work will be designed and carried out, which then spurred DDOT to request a formal environmental review (despite this being a project being carried out by a private entity on a right-of-way that they own some of).
My pile of posts over the past few years
on the subject may also be enlightening, or may not.
UPDATE: This flyer just posted
on the VirginiaAvenueTunnel.com web site says that the next public meeting, announcing which concepts will be looked at in the EIS, is scheduled for May 21 from 6 to 8 pm at Nationals Park.
CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel
Tidbits: BID Reports, Artomatic to Crystal City, Tunnel Items, More
Jan 18, 2012 2:33 PM
There's been a whirlwind of "big" posts as 2012 has gotten underway, so here's a few items I've neglected:
* BID Reports
: At its annual meeting last week, the Capitol Riverfront BID
released both its annual report
and the "Green Print of Growth" study they commissioned, which showed that the portion of the Green Line from the Navy Yard station to Georgia Avenue/Petworth has become over the past 10 years a "regional leader" in "capturing highly-prized young professional housing demand and high-wage employment," just nosing ahead of the Orange Line's Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and outstripping the Red Line's stretch in Northwest DC when looking at household growth in the 18-to-34 demographic. The report also says (shocker!) that "the analysis conducted suggests that the Capitol Riverfront--given its Green Line access at the Navy Yard Station and its significant amount of development capacity--is among the most competitive locations in the region for households, companies, and retailers."
You can read the executive summary
, the complete version
, and the slides
that RCLCO's Shyam Kannan displayed during his presentation at the meeting. (Additional coverage from WBJ
This was followed by a commentary
by BID chief Michael Stevens in Monday's Washington Post/Capital Business in which he argued: "It's time for business and residents to recognize and acknowledge a new reality: The Green Line corridor has emerged as a powerful economic engine for the District and the region. And it's time for Metro, the city and the private sector to invest more in the area to support this growth trajectory."
Also coming out of the annual meeting, the BID voted to change how it handles its taxes
, which still needs to be approved by the city council to take effect. (WBJ)
* On a parallel track, though it doesn't have to do with Near Southeast specifically, the Post's Steve Pearlstein wrote
over the weekend about how signs suggest "that the next phase of growth in the Washington region will focus on these underdeveloped areas in the eastern quadrants of the District and some of the region’s older, closer-in suburbs."
* New Views
: While I was at the BID's meeting, I took the opportunity to get some photos of the inside of 1015 Half Street
, plus one shot looking out
that shows not all views of the U.S. Capitol dome are, by default, "majestic." (Alternate caption: "Would you like fries with that democracy?") One Twitterer suggested
that the rock circle at far right, on the Capitol Hill Power Plant's property, is where the ritual sacrifices are held. So, if you see the Congressional leadership skulking around I Street late at night....
* Artomatic Decision
: The Post's Jonathan O'Connell tweeted this morning
that Artomatic is headed to Crystal City
. Organizers had been looking
at both 1015 Half and the old National Geospatial Intelligence building at 101 M
: The Virginia Avenue Tunnel web site now has public comments
on the Nov. 30 "concepts" meeting
, as well as the transcript
of that session. Comments are still being accepted through the end of January.
: A reader who lives on 7th Street just across from the Marine Bachelor Enlisted Quarters has passed along that the neighbors on that block have decided to lodge a formal protest at the liquor license renewal of the 7th and L Market
, thanks to having witnessed multiple examples over the past few years of public drunkenness and urination, loitering, littering, drug dealing, indecent exposure, and even one proposition by a prostitute. There's no doubt that that market is a bit of a throwback to the neighborhood's previous incarnation; it will be interesting to see how this proceeds, and also how the eventual arrival of the National Community Church on that block
changes (or doesn't change) things.
: Don't have enough to worry about these days? How about rising sea levels inundating
areas along DC's waterfronts? (WaPo/Capital Weather Gang)
* Neighborhood News Roundup
: The Post's new Where We Live real estate blog has a rundown
and photo gallery
today on the latest progress on the development and food fronts in Near Southeast. If it all looks and sounds strangely familiar, that shouldn't be a surprise.
Tidbits: Disaster!, Tunnel Comment Period Extended, WP on Yards
Dec 12, 2011 1:31 PM
Tidbitiest of tidbits:
* Don't panic on Wednesday (Dec. 14) if you see what appears to be all heck breaking loose at Nationals Park
--the DC Fire Department and the US Marine Corps' Chemical Biological Incident Response Force will be holding a "large-scale disaster preparedness exercise . . . simulating the joint response to a major terrorist attack." Alas, though, it won't be zombies, but rather a chemical attack. It will run from 10 am to about 2 pm. (Not open to the public.)
* DDOT and CSX have extended the comment period for the Virginia Avenue Tunnel concept offerings
by 30 days, to January 30, 2012
* Jonathan O'Connell of the Post wrote a summary
of the goings-on at the Yards
, none of which will be news to JDLand readers, but which might still be of interest. (The "office building with retail space" mentioned at the end is apparently the Lumber Shed
, which probably would be better described as a retail building with some office space, especially since the office tenant will be Forest City themselves.)
December ANC 6D Agenda: Florida Rock, CSX, M Street, More
Dec 8, 2011 4:20 PM
The agenda for Monday's ANC 6D December meeting is now available (and actually posted on their web site
, too!). My hopes for a pre-holiday pass from this have been dashed, though, since there are a number of Near Southeast items on the agenda:
* There is an application pending for landmark designation for the historic 1905 DC Water Main Pumping Station
, to which I'm sure we all say, "What do you mean it isn't already designated?"
* CSX will give an update on the Virginia Avenue Tunnel NEPA process. (Or you can just read my summary of last week's public scoping meeting
* The new partners in the RiverFront/Florida Rock project
will be giving a presentation on their new zoning filing, which I'll be writing more on shortly.
* There's also going to be an update(?) on the long-desired Maine Avenue/M Street comprehensive traffic study, which we haven't heard much about in a while
You can check the agenda
for the other items. (it's a pretty long lineup. Yay. As always, December seems to be the ZOMG WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING portion of the year, not just for ANCs but throughout the development/bureaucratic sphere.) The meeting is at 7 pm in the DCRA offices on the 2nd floor of 1100 4th St., SW.
Virginia Avenue Tunnel Project Concept Designs Unveiled
Dec 1, 2011 12:14 AM
In a conference room at Nationals Park on Wednesday night, a bevy of representatives from CSX, DDOT, and FHWA along with consultants galore showed the public for the first time a series of 12 "project concepts" for how to handle CSX's desire/need to expand the capacity
of the 3,800-foot-long Virginia Avenue Tunnel that runs from 2nd to 12th Street SE.
The concepts are now posted on the project web site
, and can be grouped as seven "rebuild" options along with four other "reroute" options that would bring about the abandonment of the tunnel altogether (and, it must be said, are probably a just smidge less likely to be one of the alternatives chosen).
Three of the rebuild options are along the lines of what's been discussed for more than two years now, which would be the running of a temporary track in an open trench while the expansion work is done on the existing tunnel. While having the trench on the south side of the tracks (Concept 2) has been the "default" discussion and has to be assumed to be CSX's preferred choice, Concept 3 shows the possibility of running the trench on the north side of the tunnel, which would be right next to the Southeast Freeway (and which I'm imagining would run into some issues with having to make sure all freeway supports are adequately protected). Concept 4 runs a "serpentine" trench both north and south of the existing tracks.
Concept 5 is an intriguing new notion, where a second permanent tunnel would be built parallel and south of the existing one. There's also the idea of just widening the current tunnel either while trains continue to use the tunnel (Concept 6) or with freight traffic temporarily rerouted either to Union Station (Concept 7A) or outside the District entirely (with a route shown that would take trains from Richmond through Ohio and up to Buffalo before turning back to the East Coast).
The "reroute" options all propose abandoning the tunnel, either building a nine-mile-long freight tunnel from National Airport to the Deanwood Metro station about 80 feet underground (Concept 8) or building other alignments proposed in recent years by the National Capital Planning Commission (Concepts 9 and 10), or running on CSX's existing tracks out to Ohio and then northward.
But of course, these are concepts
, and one of the reasons for going through a NEPA process is to study the different ideas to then come up with alternatives, accompanied by scads of data on noise, vibration, pollution, traffic, and timeline impacts. And to determine how much the various alternatives would cost--because it's likely that CSX is not going to be too gung-ho on the options anticipated to run into the billions of dollars.
It's expected that the public meeting where the alternatives will be unveiled will be in February of 2012, at which point so many of the questions that residents have been asking for so long
about how the tunnel construction will affect the day-to-day lives of people who live near and use Virginia Avenue will get some concrete answers.
Faisal Hameed of DDOT, who ran much of the meeting, emphasized a number of times during the Q&A that this is a unique project: a private company is doing work they are paying for themselves
on a right of way that they own some (but not all) of, but the impacts on vehicle/pedestrian/bicycle transportation are expected to be extensive enough that DDOT requested this environmental assessment before getting to the point of signing off on any permits that CSX will need to do the work. (There is also apparently still some negotiating going on between CSX and DDOT about exactly whose right of way is where, but it was said that no portion of the project will enter private land, though some small incursions will happen on the Marine bachelor enlisted quarters' site
west of 7th Street.)
The Q&A was a pretty peaceful one as these things go (which makes a cranky blogger so very happy!). Most of the wrangling between audience members and CSX was over the route that hazardous materials take when they are forced to go around the District because of various city laws and federal regulations; the audience members were trying to get CSX to admit that there's an existing route bypassing the city that's shorter than anything shown in the concepts, while CSX wasn't going to get anywhere near telling people where hazardous materials travel.
In response to one audience question (coming as a result of the new FAQ
posted on the project web site), CSX did say that they are going to "strongly pursue" getting a waiver to stop the currently required blowing of horns anytime a train enters the tunnel, and that they think it should be a "strong possibility" that it can happen, though of course they weren't wanting to commit.
There were also questions that will be better asked when the alternatives are unveiled, about construction staging, safety during construction, noise and vibration impacts, traffic flow, emergency planning, alley access, and what CSX will do to restore or even improve the Virginia Avenue streetscape when construction is finished. (As for any historic preservation impacts, a Section 106 review
of the project is being done concurrently with this NEPA assessment.)
Comments are being accepted on these 12 concepts for the next 30 days, either by using the web site
or e-mailing email@example.com
. (About 530 comments were received after the September scoping meeting.) It's hoped the environmental assessment will be completed with a final NEPA decision by the summer of 2012; though, if there is a finding that there will be a "significant environmental impact" from whichever construction alternative is chosen, then a full Environmental Impact Study (EIS) would then have to be done.
Next CSX/Virginia Avenue Tunnel Meeting Scheduled for Nov. 30
Nov 15, 2011 3:38 PM
I received no notification of this, just decided to wander by CSX/DDOT's Virginia Avenue Tunnel web site
and look for updates, and so am just happening to see that there's a Public Alternative Meeting scheduled for Nov. 30
from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Nationals Park. Their description: "As a follow-up to the public scoping meeting held on September 14, 2011
, a second public meeting will be held to discuss alternatives for this project. This public meeting will include a formal presentation, question and answer session, and open house displays. The formal presentation will start at 7:00 p.m. Both verbal and written comments will be taken at the meeting."
Given the displeasure voiced by many residents about the lack of information from CSX at the September meeting, it will be interesting to see how girded for battle both sides are at this second session. The official comments letter from the Capitol Quarter Homeowners Association
, all 23 pages of it, is probably a pretty complete indicator of the issues that residents along Virginia Avenue will be pressing CSX over.
You can also read my many previous entries
on the subject for more details (not in the mood to write the long re-summary today), and ANC 6B commissioner Norm Metzger is writing a lot about the subject
An e-mail has now gone out
officially announcing the meeting. It says that free parking will be available in Nats Lot C (at the corner of 1st and N), and that there will be free shuttles from Capper Seniors #1 (900 5th St. SE) and Van Ness Elementary (1150 5th St. SE).
Madison Marquette to Launch Blue Castle Redevelopment Process
Oct 28, 2011 1:44 PM
Today's Washington Business Journal reports
(subscribers only, alas) that Madison Marquette, owners of the "Blue Castle" at 770 M Street SE and co-owners of a series of additional parcels across 8th, "will soon formally launch its Lower Barracks Row redevelopment process, hiring land use planners, wooing an anchor retailer for the historic car barn and tackling a range of hurdles that stand in the way."
It's that "range of hurdles" that the article focuses on--MM will need to figure out where will parking for the car barn be able to be placed and how much additional height can be added given not only historic and building height restrictions but the Navy Yard's concerns with having buildings that can look over their walls.
Then there's the looming CSX Virginia Avenue Tunnel
construction, which could impact all of the landowners along Lower 8th given the disruptions that will no doubt ensue during the project. Mark Batterson of the National Community Church, which now owns all of the properties along Virginia between 7th and 8th
and is looking to build a large coffee house/performance space and offices there, says in the article that their planning is very much tied up in CSX's timeline. "It doesn't make sense to do our project and then have them come through and rip everything up and make it difficult for us to even access our property."
Back in 2009 and 2010 there was a long Lower 8th Street Vision Process
, which suggested allowing building heights of 65 to 85 feet on new structures 20 to 30 feet behind existing historic 8th Street structures. (The process report
has a lot of drawings on how the 45-foot limit along 8th could co-exist with these potential greater heights further off the street.)
And, while not mentioned in the WBJ article, there's still the question of whether the Marines will end up building a new barracks
in this area, as they have been hoping to do.
So, while the current Blue Castle leases are up in 2012, giving MM the opening to begin the process, the article makes clear that any makeover of Lower 8th will probably proceed slowly, at best.
Oh, and when it's all done, the Blue Castle probably won't be blue anymore:
(Rendering courtesy Madison Marquette
. And maybe there's a hint in it of where they think the parking could go!)
CSX Public Scoping Meeting Write-Up, Boards
Sep 16, 2011 10:20 AM
Greater Greater Washington covers the CSX Public Scoping Meeting
, focusing on how some attendees were surprised to only find informational displays and no presentations from CSX, DDOT, or FHWA. A shame no one made any mention
of that in advance.
CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel,
CSX Meeting Reminder; ANC 6D Redistricting, Capper Votes
Sep 13, 2011 9:16 PM
First, a reminder that Wednesday Sept. 14 brings the Public Scoping Meeting
for the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project. This is a "we want to hear what YOU think!" meeting, so there will be no presentations of actual plans for the construction. It will just be an open house with information on what exists and what needs to be done, and a chance for interested parties to submit their feedback to DDOT and the FHWA. The meeting is from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Van Ness Elementary School; you can read more about the meeting
in my post from last month. There's also the official web site
, and this flyer from the newly formed Concerned Citizens of Virginia Avenue
that makes clear their opinion on what's to come. Additional meetings where CSX will finally provide some specifics on their designs and plans should come later this fall.
As for doings at Monday night's ANC 6D meeting beyond the Metro station renaming items
I already wrote about:
* Capper Time Extensions:
The commission voted 7-0 to support the request for two-year extensions
on two planned Capper apartment
buildings and the office building planned for 600 M Street
, which is also part of the Capper redevelopment. (I hadn't realized that 600 M was part of this request when I wrote my entry last week
.) This would push the planned start dates for these three projects into the late 2013-early 2014 time frame.
As is usually the case with any Capper issue in front of the commission, Chairman McBee brought up the delayed community center
, which Housing Authority representatives said should get its needed $7.4 million in funding when a new bond issuance happens later this year, and a building permit should be filed for in advance of the July 2012 deadline. As is also most always the case with Capper issues, the commission also wanted statistics and information on the former residents of the project, and whether they are being tracked and worked with. The DCHA reps said that 129 residents have returned to Capper, with another 550 on the waiting list, though some of those have turned down recently completed units for various issues (not wanting a walkup, etc.). This is with about half of the required 707 public housing units already constructed.
This extension was to have been heard by the Zoning Commission on Monday night, but since the ANC had not yet had a chance to weigh in, the applicants agreed with a request to delay action until the Zoning Commission's Sept. 26 meeting. If you want to know more, you can read my entry from last week
(no need to write it all again!).
The ANC proffered an alternate Single Member District map from what the Ward 6 Redistricting Task Force has proposed
. It tweaks the proposed boundaries in a way that moves current commissioner David Garber's building and the 70/100 I buildings back into 6D07 (along with the small block in Southwest bordered by South Capitol, M, N, and Carrollsburg Place), while placing Capitol Hill Tower, 909 New Jersey, and Velocity in 6B03, which reaches across South Capitol from Southwest. (The proposed SMDs that cover Near Southeast are in my quickie map at right
.) Commissioner Cara Shockley, whose 6D02 was altered substantially from what the task force had proposed
(it would have covered the portion of Near Southeast now given to 6D03, along with 70/100 I and Onyx, but not CHT), told the commission she was completely opposed to the new boundaries, and had no idea that such a big change was being proposed by the ANC, having been unable to open the attachments with the map images. David Garber took no official position on 6D's map, saying that because his constituents have made clear that they feel Near Southeast belongs in 6B and not 6D he would not be voting. In the end, the ANC supported the resolution offering up the alternate map in a 4-1-2 vote, with Garber and Bob Craycraft abstaining and Shockley voting against.
The task force's next public meeting
is on Sept. 19 to propose the second draft of SMD boundaries, followed by a final meeting to approve their final draft maps on Sept. 22. Tommy Wells will then submit recommendations on boundaries to the city council by Sept. 30. For more on all the redistricting process, see my previous entries
Virginia Avenue Tunnel Scoping Meeting Set for Sept. 14
Aug 16, 2011 10:24 AM
The public meeting process for the reconstruction of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel is about to get underway, with a date finally having been set for the first of the mandatory NEPA sessions: On Sept. 14, DDOT and the Federal Highway Administration will hold the Public Information and Scoping Meeting
. This is an "open house," with no formal presentations to be made, but there will be maps and displays available, and officials will be there to receive comments from attendees. Written comments
can also be submitted electronically, if you can't be there in person. The meeting is at Van Ness Elementary School at 5th and M, SE, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.
After this, there will be a Public Design Concepts Meeting at some point in the fall, which is where the first detailed plans for the project will be laid out. Then the Environmental Assessment would be released sometime in spring of next year (with an accompanying public hearing), with the final decisions on the project's design being made about a year from now.
There's also now an official Virginia Avenue Tunnel web site
, where hopefully documents, maps, and whatnot will be posted as the process moves along.
If you haven't been following along, there is a rail tunnel that has run under Virginia Avenue from 2nd St. SE to 12th St. SE for about 100 years now, and, as part of the National Gateway project
, CSX plans to widen the tunnel to allow for double-tracking, as well as raise the height of the roof to allow for double-stacked train cars. In order to accomplish this, Virginia Avenue will need to be closed for 2-3 years (though the cross streets will still be open), and an open trench will be dug to allow trains to continue to run alongside the existing track during construction. As one might imagine, the residents of Capitol Quarter in the 300 block of Virginia Avenue are a mite concerned about exactly how this will work, as are people who use Garfield Park (just to the north of the tunnel) and drivers who come off the Southeast Freeeway at the 6th Street exit, since cars will not be able to continue east on Virginia during construction but will have to go left under the freeway and go up into the Capitol Hill neighborhoods.
In May, CSX announced that it would be investing $160 million of its own money
to fund the project. There is a strong desire by CSX to get this work completed before the opening of the expanded Panama Canal in 2015.
A Few More Nats Park Photos (Eateries Etc.), and Other Tidbits
Jun 15, 2011 9:29 AM
I wandered down to Nationals Park
last night to take in the atmosphere of not only the four new eateries, but also the return of Ryan Zimmerman. It was a healthy crowd (26,700+), and only about half of them seemed to be in line at Shake Shack and the other new food concessions (though by later in the game, the non-Shake Shack options had no lines).
I took another slew of photos
(since the original batch
from Monday's preview event proved to be pretty popular) mainly trying to get shots of these new "iconic
" ballpark features from various angles, along with a few other shots of interest. As you can see in the shot at right, you can look at Blue Smoke and Box Frites with the Yards Park
"iconic" pedestrian bridge and Navy Yard riverwalk directly behind, or with an east-of-the-river vista
. I also grabbed a view of the progress on the bridge
between Diamond Teague Park and Yards Park, my first shots of Das Bullpen, and both the sunset and the moonrise. And they would have all been even better if I had brought the official JDLand DSLR camera and not my less-than-fabulous point-and-shoot. Browse the gallery
, and then mock me for leaving in the top of the 7th inning.
Other recently tweeted
* The Yards' new Facebook page
now includes a 2 1/2-minute virtual tour
of what the neighborhood will look like when it's all built out. To see what it looks like now (and what it looked like a few years back), wander through my Yards project page
* On Sunday morning a group of volunteers descended on the empty lot just east of the Velocity
condo building to turn it into a demonstration rain garden
. It's a project of the DC chapter of the Surfrider Foundation
, and is being funded by REI
and the Cohen Companies
(developers of the block), among others. They are having a meeting at Velocity on June 20 at 6 pm to discuss the project, and there will be another work day on the site on Saturday, June 25. The project's blog
has photos and a lot of details; it's officially named the David Stemper Memorial Rain Garden, in honor of a Surfrider volunteer
who passed away in 2010.
* The BID says
that the next Truckeroo
food truck festival at Half and M SE will be on Friday, July 15.
* Last week CSX sent a letter
out to residents who live near Virginia Avenue introducing the plans to rehab the Virginia Avenue Tunnel. (It was probably quite useful for people who don't read JDLand!)
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