Looking eastward toward the Virginia Avenue Tunnel
from New Jersey Avenue.
Virginia Avenue Tunnel Expansion

CSX is needing to expand the 105-year-old train 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. After a number of years of trying to secure $160 million in federal funding, CSX decided in 2011 to pay for the three-year project itself. With initial discussions raising the possibility of the extended closure of Virginia Avenue and a temporary track in an open trench to run trains through during construction, and the concerns of residents and neighbors over such a plan, the District Department of Transportation requested a formal federal environmental review, which is expected to be finished in spring 2013.

Links:
Official Project Web Site | CSX Commits $160M to National Gateway (5/18/11)
JD's Virginia Avenue Tunnel News Items & Additional Links
 


            Tunnel Info and Photos            News Items            

JDLand Blog Posts on this Project
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Wednesday Tidbits: Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is?
Apr 9, 2014 11:37 AM
* UNARMED: Since I watched it get built (and remember the problems it's had since the beginning), I'll pass along the story of the woes of the Curly W scoreboard clock. (WaPo)
* THIS WEEK IN CSX: In case you haven't heard, a new date has been set for the DC council's hearing on a proposed resolution to tell the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to have a hearing about the Virginia Avenue Tunnel. It's now set for April 30 at 10 am (moved from March 25), and the announcement explains how you can be heard at this hearing, should you choose to be heard.
Other than that, I got nuthin. Unless you know someone who grew up in northeastern Wyoming many years ago and might be in this batch of uncaptioned photos handed down through my family. (Great-aunt Lucy was a teacher out there, so there's lots of pictures of kids in front of small rural schoolhouses.)
UPDATE: To flesh these tidbits out a bit, I'll add this just-posted WaPo piece on when the Nats should sell naming rights to the ballpark.

Tuesday Tidbits: Very Late Wednesday Edition
Apr 2, 2014 10:46 PM
* CSX I: Eleanor Holmes Norton tells USDOT to get moving: "I ask that you help ensure the prompt release of the Final EIS for the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project so that the surrounding community is aware of the preferred alternative, any impacts this project may have on them, and any mitigation and benefits to the surrounding community."
* CSX II: ANC 6B writes to Mayor Gray: "We have serious concerns about the VAT project proposed in the draft environmental impact statement, and we urge you to ensure those concerns are adequately addressed before the District issues the requisite approvals for the project."
* POCKET CHANGE: The Wall Street Journal reports that "Investors who own the storied Hawk ‘n’ Dove bar and other Capitol Hill eating spots owe more than $9 million to D.C. restaurateur Xavier Cervera and his partners who sold the restaurants to them in late 2012." An earlier WSJ piece gives a wider view of the mess of financing this all appears to be.
* FOR THE RECORD: In Precinct 131 (Near Southeast), Muriel Bowser received 40 percent of the vote, Tommy Wells 30 percent, and Vince Gray 24 percent. And in the Ward 6 council race, Charles Allen beat Darrel Thompson 57-43. A grand total of 444 people cast ballots out of the 2,085 registered voters in the precinct. So, yay to 21.29 percent of you!
* BLUEJACKET AND BASEBALL: It seems like the brewery has already been here forever, but Bluejacket is about to embark on its first season of providing refreshments to Nats fans. They've announced that they will be "tailgating" on their patio at 10 am Friday for the season opener, and that their new outdoor grill will be open for business "weather permitting, all season long Thursdays through Sundays from 11 am until 10 pm and on all game days beginning two hours before the first pitch."
* SWEET!: Sweetgreen has gotten its tenant layout permit to begin the buildout of its space in Twelve12, on 4th Street across from Bluejacket.
* THROWBACK THURSDAY: I did a bit of purging in my office over the weekend, and found at least two museum-worthy items (here and here). That's in addition to the Canal Park groundbreaking shovel I still trip over on a regular basis.

Tuesday Tidbits: Coming in Like a Lion
Mar 4, 2014 12:20 PM
* CSX NEAR: The Kojo Nnamdi Show hosted on Monday a roundtable on the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project, with David Garber and others. You can listen to it here.
* CSX FAR: Heads will explode, but I will pass along that CSX's J&L Tunnel Modification project has recently won two engineering awards. What is this tunnel? "The J&L Tunnel was constructed in the 1880s as part of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad to allow trains to run beneath the former J&L Steel Company’s Pittsburgh Works Southside facility." And what was the project? CSX "increased the vertical clearance of a 130-year-old tunnel running through Pittsburgh’s SouthSide Works, a mixed-use residential and commercial development. CSX worked closely with public officials, local businesses and residents to minimize noise and disruption during construction. Upon completion of the tunnel work, CSX restored trees and plantings, and invested in landscaping improvements that left the overlying Tunnel Park a more usable recreational space."
* HAMPTON: The building permit has been approved for the 168-room Hampton Inn just north of Nats Park. (The shoring permit was approved back in December.)
* THE MASTER PLAN: DDOT has officially released its update to the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative Master Plan. This covers projects like the new Douglass Bridge and South Capitol Street makeover, the Barney Circle/Southeast Boulevard redo, the M Street SE/SW transportation study, the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, and all other manner of projects and studies for infrastructure updates and improvements in the area. (Though, at 194 pages, maybe the Executive Summary will be a good place to start.) If I were a good blogger, I'd write a big in-depth entry about this, but, well, we know the answer to that these days....
* POLITICS: The Post grades the recent Southwest/Near Southeast Mayoral Forum, and the Hill Rag looks closely at the Ward 6 council race. Primary day is now less than a month away, on April 1. And note that tonight (March 4) there is a forum with the candiates at 7 pm at Westminster Church at 400 I St. SW, and there will be a Ward 6 candidate forum on education issues on Thursday, March 6, at 6:30 pm at Stuart-Hobson Middle School.
* DE-W'ED: Have you noticed that the Curly Ws are gone from various freeway signs? Here's why.
* PASTOR MILLS: Unfortunately, a sad piece of news to mention is that Karen Mills, pastor of the St. Paul's church at 4th and I SE, passed away on Feb. 21. I only met her a few times, but she was a very welcoming and pleasant presence, and condolences go out to her family, friends, and members of the church.
Anything else catching peoples' eyes?

Tuesday Tidbits: All About the Preparation
Feb 18, 2014 3:04 PM
* PREPARING TO DIG: After a couple of articles highlighting residents' opposition to the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, the Post takes a look at how CSX and some rail experts view the reconstruction and expansion of the tunnel as a necessary step.
* PREPARING TO DECLARE: Also, there's now scheduled a council hearing about the tunnel project, on March 25 at 11 am. The hearing is actually on proposed resolution PR 20-601, "Sense of the Council for a Hearing on the CSX Virginia Avenue Tunnel Project Resolution of 2013," which "is to the declare sense of the Council that the Unites States House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit should hold a hearing on the CSX Virginia Avenue Tunnel Project." (So it's a hearing by one governmental body about whether they should tell another governmental body to hold a hearing.)
* PREPARING TO DE-SPOOK: The arrivial of bulldozers and dumpsters on site at the old NGA building at 1st and M SE has sharp-eyed observers tapping their toes waiting for the demolition to start, but as was mentioned previously, it's going to take about six months to complete. But maybe they can at least knock out some exterior walls before Opening Day, as a statement of intent to Nats fans who haven't kept up with the latest news (tsk, tsk).
* PREPARING TO ROCK: I showed a touch of hard-won skepticism last week in reporting that developers told ANC 6D that they expect to begin work on the first phase of Florida Rock's redevelopment in June. So I will follow that up by noting that, two days later, they appear to have filed an application for a shoring/sheeting permit. (Not seeing an application for any building yet, though.)
* PREPARING TO WANT: The WashBiz Journal last week looked at the retail states of four "hot neighborhoods" (subscribers only), highlighting what they "flaunt" and what they "want." After the flaunting (20 restaurants, Nats Park, Vida Fitness, and Whole Foods), Michael Stevens of the BID listed the "wants": child care facilities, apparel retailers, a large home furnishing store, and college classrooms (saying that the area "is positioning itself as a satellite campus destination for those maxed out on their space"). Non-subscribers can watch some video of Stevens's talk at the BID's annual meeting, at least..

Tuesday Tidbits: Seeing Red
Feb 4, 2014 12:11 PM
I sure am thrilled that Google has decided to throw big red malware warnings up--some of the time--when accessing JDLand, then telling me that it's nothing I can fix because it's a cross-site scripting error, but the other site isn't flagged for malware either. Sigh. So if you're seeing this, yay.
PAINTING THE (NATS) TOWN RED: SportsBog reports on the newly painted concourse floors at Nats Park. I am embarrassed to say that I noticed them a few weeks ago when I was there, but had been at the ballpark so rarely last year--and was so distracted when I was--that I just wasn't sure enough the red floors were new enough to mention. Oops.
TUNNELING THROUGH: Here's six pages of pushback against Kirsten Oldenburg's pushback against the pushback against CSX's plans for the Virginia Avenue Tunnel.
MEET THE CANDIDATES: City Paper takes a look at Charles Allen, Darrel Thompson, and the race to replace Tommy Wells. (With bonus points for mentioning the tunnel controversy.)
THIS IS HALF STREET CALLING: Hot on the heels of the news that the National Labor Relations Board is coming to 1015 Half Street, WaPo's sources say that CBS Radio is also about to take 30,000 square feet in the building. Not officially confirmed, though.
GO AHEAD, HALF STREET: Speaking of 1015 Half, WaPo has the story of how the building's original developer Opus East ended up going bankrupt and liquidating, a fate which left the building an unfinished, oft-cited emblem of the recession during 2009 and early 2010.
CLASSIFIED INFO: I posted on Saturday morning about this (which means that basically no one saw it--the perfect soft launch!), so I'll mention a bit louder this time that JDLand now has Classified Advertisements. So if you're trying to rent a place, or fill a job, or if you have something else you're wanting to sell or buy, you can get a two-week listing for a mere $5, and know that you are microtargeting your neighbors, office workers, Nats fans, and others with an interest in this area. There's a box on the home page that points to the current offerings, so be sure to check it out in case there's some offering there just calling your name.

Tidbits: Train Tracks, Training, Treadmills
Jan 27, 2014 5:28 PM
* TRAIN TRACKS I: There was another public meeting about the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project on Saturday, again hosted by DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. It was billed in advance as meeting with both her and representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency. However, EPA decided not to attend, apparently releasing this statement (tweeted out by a DCist staffer) saying in part "EPA remains invested in the views of all stakeholders[.] ... However, the agency believes it is appropriate to first allow the DDOT and FHA time to consider the comments of EPA and others on the draft EIS."
* TRAIN TRACKS II: The Post covered the "heated" meeting, highlighting that "CSX Transportation says residents in a Southeast Washington community who have raised concerns about trains carrying crude oil passing through the District can rest assured that crude oil transportation through the city is rare, and that there is no market in the area for it." CSX stated that it transported three loaded cars of crude oil through the tunnel in 2013, on separate trains, with none of them being the "unit trains" that cause such concern. However, last week the National Transportation Safety Board released recommendations for stricter federal oversight of crude oil transportation. It also quoted Del. Norton as being "totally outraged" about the EPA no show. (And, just as the Tidbits went up, there's another link to add, this summary of the meeting by ThinkProgress's ClimateProgress arm.)
* TRAIN TRACKS III: And there were offerings from the two ANC commissioners whose districts include the tunnel but who have close to diametrically opposed views of the project. ANC 6D07's David Garber's letter to the Editor in the Post says "There is no better time than now for [Mayor] Gray to show his leadership and stop this harmful project before it starts," while 6B03's Kirsten Oldenburg's description and thoughts about Saturday's EPA-less meeting concludes with "[A]ll that can possibly be said about this proposed tunnel reconstruction is out there in the public domain. My hope is that the FEIS is released before we have anymore public meetings hosted by political leaders."
* TRAINING: I mentioned in last week's Tidbits that Teeter and VIDA would be starting the buildouts of their spaces at Twelve12 "very soon," and today VIDA sent out a press release announcing that Feb. 1 is in fact their start date. The release says that it's expected the Penthouse Pool Club will open in early July, Bang Salon in mid-July, VIDA Fitness itself in August, and Aura Spa in October. A few renderings of the VIDA spaces (lobby, pool, and kids zone), courtesy VIDA's Facebook page (click to embiggen):
The release also mentions new-to-VIDA offerings at the Yards such as the "experiential cycling studio," the "Synrgy 360 globular multipurpose exercise apparatus," a hot yoga studio, "well-appointed, gender-specific European sauna and steam rooms," and the 1,000-square-foot Kids Zone shown above.
* TREADMILLS: But what about memberships for cats who like to workout on treadmills? (That's my George.)

To-Do Tidbits: Billy Joel at Nats Park, and More
Jan 23, 2014 10:45 AM
The neighborhood has come so far that a more specialized type of Tidbits post is now being added to the lineup, to better handle upcoming event announcements. I'm also reconstituting my Near Southeast Events Calendar, down the right margin of the JDLand home page. (And it's a Google calendar, if you want to subscribe to it.)
* NEW/OLD CONCERTS: The Nationals announced this morning that Billy Joel is playing Nats Park on July 26, his second appearance at the stadium (the first being his joint appearance with Elton John in 2009). Tickets go on sale to the public on Feb. 1 at 10 am.
This is the third stand-alone concert scheduled for the ballpark for 2014, along with the already confirmed appearance by country star Jason Aldean on a date to be announced and the big One Direction show on Aug. 11.
* NEW/OLD TUNNEL: On Saturday, Jan. 25, at 2 pm, there is another neighborhood meeting with DC Delegate* Eleanor Holmes Norton about the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, this time including representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency to discuss the project's potential impacts. The meeting is at 200 I St. SE (the old Post Plant) - a photo ID is required to attend. More details at DCSafeRail.org.
* LOCAL ART: The social committee at Velocity has collaborated with the Capitol Hill Art League to display "Signature DC," a collection of art by local DC artists. There is a reception on Jan. 25 from 5 to 7 pm, with proceeds from the sale of the $15 tickets going toward a Community Artists Fund for the condo building to purchase local art for permanent display. Tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite.
* CANDIDATE, MAYOR: The "All Politics is Local" series of forums with mayoral candidates kicks off with Tommy Wells at the Hill Center at 9th and Pennsylvania SE on Jan. 27 at 7 pm. The series, hosted by NBC4 reporters Tom Sherwood and Mark Seagraves, continues on Feb. 10 with Muriel Bowser and March 10 with Jack Evans.
* CANDIDATE, COUNCIL: On Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 6:30 pm, there's a meet-and-greet with Ward 6 council candidate Charles Allen in the Velocity Condo meeting room. The primary election is on April 1, which suddenly isn't really all that far away. UPDATE: Non-Velocity residents should sign up in advance here.
* NEW/OLD SCHOOL: The new Van Ness Parent Group is holding a community meeting on Feb. 1 to get supporters together to talk about the elementary school's scheduled reopening for the 2015-16 school year. The meeting is at 11 am at Capitol Hill Tower, 1000 New Jersey Ave SE.
If you've got a neighborhood event you want mentioned in a To-Do Tidbits post, you can contact me with the details and I'll try to get a capsule up. I will aim to post them each Thursday, if there's enough content.
(* Despite perpetual billing to the contrary, Ms. Norton is a delegate, not a congresswoman representative (UPDATE: see comment thread below). She doesn't have voting rights on the House floor, as she would if DC had full congressional representation. I can't believe there still isn't a catchy Schoolhouse Rock song about this.)

Residents Give Mayor a Tunnel Earful; Plus, a Dissent
Jan 20, 2014 10:07 AM
Both the Post and City Paper have reports on Thursday's meeting with Mayor Vince Gray where residents had the chance to air their grievances about the plans for the renovation and expansion of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel between 2nd and 12th streets, SE.
City Paper's article opened thusly: "Navy Yard residents still unequivocally don't want the the city to give a complex Virginia Avenue Tunnel construction project the go-ahead, and last night, hundreds of neighbors came out to let Mayor Vince Gray know just how horrible they think the project is." CP wrote that Mayor Gray "facilitated the meeting and took what he referred to as 'copious notes' throughout. He didn't say much about the project itself, only promising that the city would never sign on to a project that would endanger lives: 'There's no way we would be involved in a project like that.' "
CP also has this: "Skip Elliott, vice president of public safety, health and environment at CSX, said there would be no 'unit trains' with crude oil going through the tunnel. When the meeting attendees screamed he was lying, he clarified that while there would be no unit trains—or a group of trains that typically carry a single commodity—there would be some rail cars that would carry crude."
The Post notes that "[s]ome residents say they fear the estimated three to six years of construction will lower home values and slow growth in the neighborhood." It quotes resident Natalie Skidmore: "With an open trench, we have concerns about how people are going to get around. We are going to lose parking spots, trees and access." And the article closes with a quote from James McPhillips, one of the leaders of the DCSafeRail opposition group: "We really thought the neighborhood was up and coming. It had a beautiful, inviting and diverse community[.] This project has the possibility of destroying that."
In the wake of the meeting, ANC 6D07 commissioner David Garber told his mailing list that "I believe this issue is finally on the mayor's radar -- but we need to KEEP IT THERE," suggesting that "[w]hile a hashtag won't save the world (yet) -- please consider tweeting to the mayor and including the hashtag #MayorNoBuild."
However, the commissioner for another ANC single member district that will be affected by the project came out of the meeting with a different point of view, and has posted her concerns with the concerns of Virginia Avenue residents.
KIrsten Oldenburg, commissioner of ANC 6B04--which mainly covers Barracks Row but also includes lower 8th Street and Virginia Avenue from 7th Street to 11th Street--posted today a detailed look at the issues that the opposition groups are so vociferously arguing about, saying that "[t]his is not to say that those stridently opposed to the project don’t have a right to conduct a politicized campaign. [...] But, I don’t have to agree with the way they are using and perpetuating misinformation about what we know about the project."
OIdenburg addresses the proposed alternatives, saying that it is "Not True" that all proposed build alternatives involve running trains through open trenches, since one of the alternatives has trains running through the existing closed tunnel during construction. She notes that the draft EIS says "the maximum duration is 3.5 years for alternatives with open trench train operations and 5.5 years for the closed tunnel version," meaning that there may be a tradeoff between open-vs.-closed trench and shorter-vs.-longer duration.
She also looks at the hazardous materials and rail accidents arguments, and notes that the issue of CSX's HazMat transportation has been around since before the tunnel became a cause. After pointing out that trucks carry "unknown quantities of hazardous materials along I-695 (parallel to Virginia Avenue)," Oldenburg says that "[t]he alarms being raised on hazardous materials are diverting attention away from other more probable problems an open trench might cause."
On the issue of street closures, she looks at the disruptions as they have been outlined from the beginning of the EIS project: "But, aside from 2nd Street, all north/south crossings of Virginia Avenue will remain open during construction. Will these streets be closed occasionally and for short periods of time? Yes. Will the I-695 exit ramp at 6th Street and on ramp at 8th Street be closed for the duration? No. Will each have to be closed for a short time while decking is installed at these intersections with Virginia Avenue? Yes. Does the DEIS show special lanes to be set up to provide continuing access for residences and businesses in close proximity to the construction area? Yes."
The issue of community benefits in the wake of such a long construction project is one she feels needs more discussion, noting that 6B and others have already been advocating for green space with a pedestrian/bike patch from 3rd Street to 11th Street, along with a major redesign of Virginia Avenue Park. "But, is a linear park that will revitalize a lifeless space and serve all residents both north and south of the Freeway enough? Is it possible to equalize burdens and benefits? ... What more could/should we ask for?"
She closes with reference to the comments submitted to the DEIS, saying that the issues raised are "excellent contributions toward making the FEIS a major improvement over the DEIS," but that, "[I]n the end, the FEIS may improve our comfort level about this project but it will never satisfy everyone."

Meeting with Mayor on Virginia Ave. Tunnel Jan. 16
Jan 9, 2014 9:32 AM
Resident groups alarmed at CSX's plans to renovate and expand the Virginia Avenue Tunnel have secured a public meeting with Mayor Vince Gray to air their concerns about the projects and its impacts, which range from the use of the tunnel for hazardous materials transport to the presence of asbestos to increased vibrations on surrounding structures to the "potential for stalled neighborhood development" and traffic congestion.
It is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 16, at 6:30 pm at 200 I St. SE (the old Post Plant).
For more information on the meeting and on the residents' battle, see DCSafeRail.org. For more information on the tunnel project, which is currently awaiting the any-minute-now release of the Environmental Impact Statement, see my project page or CSX's official site at VirginiaAvenueTunnel.com.

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.
The article 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.)

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.
UPDATE, 11/26: 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 or Facebook 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 contact@virginiaavenuetunnel.com 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.
UPDATE: 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
This flyer, 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.
The information 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.

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 and CapBiz.)
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."
UPDATE: 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.
* CSX: 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.
* Protest: 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.
* AIIIEEEE!: 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 contact@virginiaavenuetunnel.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 as well.
UPDATE: 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).
Also, here is the official flyer, which nearby residents will be receiving in the mail.

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.
The boards from the meeting have now been posted on the official Virginia Avenue Tunnel web site. There's now a 30-day comment period, with a design concepts meeting to follow not long after. That's when the real nitty gritty should appear.

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!).
* Redistricting: 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.
You can also read all my previous CSX entries for additional details.

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 tidbits:
* 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!)

CSX Funding the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, NEPA Process to Begin
May 18, 2011 5:46 PM
CSX announced today that it will be investing $160 million of its own monies in its National Gateway project, with most of that money going toward the funding of the expansion of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, the 107-year-old structure that runs beneath Virginia Avenue from 2nd Street SE to 12th Street SE. With this decision, the company will start moving toward design and construction of the project, first by going through the NEPA process of environmental impact studies, which apparently is going to be spearheaded by the Federal Highways Administration (with support and assistance from DDOT, according to CSX).
Within the next few months there will be an initial public "scoping" meeting, where the parties lay out exactly what needs to be done with the tunnel and why. After a 30-day comment period expires, an "alternatives" meeting will then be scheduled, and this will be the meeting that residents will be the most interested in, because this will be when the design options for the project will first be made public, and will be the stage where CSX will at last answer the questions that so many people who live on or near Virginia Avenue have wanted answered since this project first really hit the public consciousness in late 2009. (Will the trench be completely uncovered? Will we be able to get into our alley? How will firetrucks service our block? What about noise? What about dust? What about traffic? What about the 6th Street exit off the freeway?) And at a meeting this afternoon, representatives from CSX didn't suddenly decide to answer any of those sorts of questions, deflecting them as ones that will be addressed at the alternatives meeting.
The CSX briefers today emphasized that they feel "sooner is better" for getting the project underway, with the expansion of the Panama Canal launching in early 2015 being one of the drivers of their decision to invest their own dollars rather than continuing to search for federal or state monies to pay for the project. (And, perhaps to ward off an expected line of criticism, they also made sure to mention that using their own money was in no way an attempt to sidestep NEPA.)
There's no firm date as to when construction might begin, owing to the reality that federal reviews don't always happen on a metronome-like timetable, and that then there will be permitting processes and other agency reviews (such as going through the National Capital Planning Commission and the city's historic preservation reviews). But it would seem that spring 2012 would be a likely target time if there are no big roadblocks thrown up, especially given that Panama Canal 2015 date and that CSX says they expect the project to take about three years. With other construction happening at or near the tunnel's path, including the rehab of 225 Virginia, the 11th Street Bridges reconstruction, and perhaps the start of some portion of William C. Smith's mixed-use project at 2nd and H, the very northern portion of the neighborhood will certainly continue to be knee-deep in heavy machinery for a number of years (and CSX says that they are coordinating with those other projects).
If you are just tuning in and aren't up to speed, CSX is wanting to add a second track to the tunnel, ending its status as one of the last (if not the last?) stretch of single track in CSX's east coast operations. They also plan to lower the floor of the tunnel to allow for double-stacked trains, vastly increasing the amount of cargo they can move through their system. (You can read their press release for what they consider to be the benefits of this expansion and all of the $850 million National Gateway project.)
As I've said, there isn't much in the way of specifics as to how exactly the project will be configured, other than we know there will be a parallel track running in an open trench, and that Virginia Avenue itself will be closed, but with bridges across the construction at 3rd, 4th, 7th, and 8th to allow the movement of north-south traffic. (This would mean that vehicles exiting the Southeast Freeway at 6th Street would need to turn north under the freeway to then move toward any final destination.)
My post from a walking tour of the project last July has some of the (few) details so far announced on the project, but focus will now turn to the NEPA public meetings as the point where the real specifics of the project and its impacts will be revealed, and where residents will be able to voice any and all concerns, problems, anger, threats of litigation, etc. Until then, feel free to use the comments here for all that! You can also read my previous CSX posts for more background and details on the project up to now.


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