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Near Southeast DC Past News Items: Jul 19, 2010
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2 Blog Posts

The folks at CSX led a few local bloggers on a little tour late this afternoon along the footprint of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, between New Jersey Avenue and 12th Street, SE, to give us a feel for the scope of the upcoming work to widen (and deepen) the tunnel to allow for double tracking and double-stacked railcars.
There isn't really any news to report--it wasn't a shock that there weren't any sudden outbursts of information about noise and dust abatement, traffic measures, access to the houses in the 300 block of Virginia Avenue, or anything along those lines, because CSX is holding all of its cards veeeeeeery close to its corporate vest until the NEPA process gets underway. They are expecting that their actual plans will go out for public comment sometime in the November-December timeframe, if all goes according to schedule. That said, here are a few items worth passing along (some of which I may have posted before but are worth repeating). But keep in mind that this is all still preliminary, the exact alignment won't be known until the design/build and NEPA process are completed, yadda yadda yadda.
* If you stand on the bridge over the train tracks at New Jersey Avenue and look eastward toward the mouth of the tunnel at Second Street (seen at right), you can envision the beginning of the parallel track that will run first between the pillars of the SE Freeway, then in an open trench all the way to 12th Street while they're widening the existing tunnel. The new tunnel will expand four feet on either side of the current alignment, and the open trench will be dug on a line that extends about 19 feet south from the new wider footprint. They are working with the owner of the Charley Horse Stables just to the south of the train tracks to see how her operations can be handled during the estimated three-year construction time.
* The temporary trench will run along the south side of Virginia Avenue on a line that will include most of the sidewalk and grass in front of 225 Virginia Avenue (right up to where the in-ground grates are, at which point the trench will shift northward toward the freeway somewhat). There will be coordination between CSX and StonebridgeCarras, who will be working on the reconstruction of 225 Virginia at the same time.
* Then, if you stand just south of the intersection at Fourth and Virginia and look west, there is a lamp post a few feet south of the stop sign in that spot--the edge of the trench will be about 9 feet south of that lamp post, which means the trench will be very close to the first house on Fourth, but gets farther from the houses in the 300 block as it goes west back to 225 Virginia. (I should have taken a picture. Oops.)
* At Fifth and Virginia, the off-ramp from the freeway will be shifted a couple feet northward--not that there's more than a few feet for it to move--so that it sits directly next to the embankment. Then, it looks like the Marines' fence along the 500 block of Virginia will have to be shifted about halfway down the hill from its current alignment, along with some of their HVAC equipment near Seventh Street.
* The work may require the closure of the on-ramp to the freeway at Eighth Street, requiring drivers to head to 11th and N to get on the 11th Street Bridges (at least until the new on-ramps are completed at 11th and M).
* At Ninth and Virginia, Dogma's property might not be clipped, but CSX will be working to help reorient Dogma's operations toward L Street (since the current access via Virginia Avenue will be unavailable). It's possible that L Street might temporarily become two-way during construction.
* The trench will come very close to the northern fence of the Virginia Avenue Garden, but they aren't sure yet of the exact final location.
* And if you've never seen the east end of the tunnel, east of 11th Street, here you go.
Of course, through all of this, all of Virginia Avenue will be closed to traffic, and the current sidewalks will be gone as well. There will be "bridges" across the tunnel and trench for vehicular and pedestrian traffic at Third, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth, and apparently pedestrian access will be maintained to the underpass at Second Street to get to Garfield Park.
But, as I said, the information residents most want to know isn't yet public, and I wouldn't expect hard news about the plans and mitigation measures until the NEPA process gets futher along. There will be a public comment period after a series of public meetings, though they are continuing to work with the city and the Feds behind the scenes. It will be interesting to see what comes to the table.

The city's Department of Real Estate Services (formerly OPM) has put out a solicitation to sublease 50,750 square feet of below-grade space at 225 Virginia Avenue as a data center. While that may be terribly interesting to some people, probably the item of greater interest is the rendering on the first page, which is the first glimpse of the "reskinned" building, showing the current gray windowless monolith rebuilt into a more open structure that actually resembles an office building. The rendering is from the building's southwest corner, so the SE Freeway (not shown) would run "behind" the building. You can just barely see Capitol Quarter townhouses at far right, making that Third Street.
The solicitation also says that construction is expected to begin in November of this year and last 15 months, with development being handled by StonebridgeCarras while the city continues to own the land. When completed, three city agencies will occupy the building--the Commission on Arts and Humanities, the Office of the Chief Technology Officer [hence the data center stuff], and the Child and Family Services Agency. If you see people wandering around the site on Tuesday, it's a site tour for parties interested in the data center colocation. Responses to the solicitation are due to the city on July 30.
If you're just joining the story now, feel free to read my past 225 Virginia posts to catch up on the many twists and turns this building has seen over the past few years. (h/t DCMud)

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