Since January, 2003
 Sliding from Before to After

CSX has announced (now posted on the official web site) that the two-year closure of the remaining eastbound lane of Virginia Ave. east of 6th will begin after the morning rush hour tomorrow, Sept. 22. Because I'm a little pressed for time, I'm just bringing this post that I wrote back in August on the change to the top of the pile.
Original post from Aug. 22:
The biggest disruption to traffic flow so far* near the Southeast Freeway in connection with the Virginia Avenue Tunnel expansion is now on the horizon, with CSX's announcement on Friday that it expects to close the one remaining open eastbound portion of Virginia Avenue, between 6th and 8th Streets, SE, sometime in mid-September.
This closure is anticipated to last until the completion of the tunnel project in mid-2018.
During this closure, the stretch of Virginia between 6th and 8th on the north side of the freeway that is currently one-way westbound will become two-way traffic, as shown in my alarmingly nifty graphic below. Traffic coming off the 6th Street exit ramp will all turn left to go under the freeway and then have the option to turn right on Virginia to continue eastbound, or to turn westbound or to continue northward.
The streets that cross Virginia will remain open during this time, so north/south traffic will continue to move in its current configurations on 3rd, 7th, and 8th Streets, with 4th remaining a southbound-only crossing and 5th/6th a northbound crossing.
(It is expected that the 5th Street intersection that has been closed for the past few weeks to install the temporary decking will reopen this week, allowing traffic to once again come north on 5th from K and cross under the freeway.)
If you don't trust JDLand's high quality graphics, here's the announcement from CSX and its own map of the new traffic flows.
The most recent "Coffee with Chuck" meeting to update interested parties was on Aug. 17, and the presentation slides are here. The next Coffee with Chuck will be on Sept. 21, followed by the quarterly Open House on Oct. 20.
* At some point there will be the most disruptive closure of all, when the freeway exit ramp is closed temporarily for some few weeks to be reconfigured to allow the tunnel construction to expand northward under the current ramp footprint. But that ramp closure is not part of this change in September. BIG UPDATE: Or not! CSX has contacted me to say that while they will "have to temporarily narrow the [6th Street exit] ramp late this year or early next," they "expect that at least one lane of the ramp will remain open at all times."
Comments (25)
 More About CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel Home


walt says: (8/22/16 1:39 PM)
Yikes. That seems dangerous. Any word on whether they will put temporary bollards up to separate the lanes? If not, I'll probably be the first to get into an accident.

JD says: (8/22/16 4:46 PM)
Added to the end of this post:

BIG UPDATE: Or not! CSX has contacted me to say that while they will "have to temporarily narrow the [6th Street exit] ramp late this year or early next," they "expect that at least one lane of the ramp will remain open at all times."

dude says: (8/22/16 10:42 PM)
Holy mackerel! Yeah, this actually seems like it'll be a pain in the rear unlike the painless closures so far.

But, as with everything, better to wait and see than to complain at this point.

Ampersand says: (8/23/16 2:49 PM)
I think this will be weird, but probably fine; there's plenty of width for two-way traffic. I always wondered why Virginia Ave was so wide along that stretch.

If they do indeed figure out some way to avoid completely closing the exit ramp, that will be awesome!

walt says: (8/23/16 3:28 PM)
CSX and city officials promised in the Final environment impact study (FEI)? that the 6th street ramp would NOT be closed.
Of course, they also promised regular working hours too, but that has now been waived and CSX is now working early morning to late night with after-hours permits.

JD says: (8/23/16 3:32 PM)
I'm not sure that in the FEIS they said it wouldn't be closed at all--there had been quite the brouhaha when a federal agency official misspoke in a public meeting and said it would be closed for the entire length of the construction project, and so the FEIS stated what the preliminary documents had all stated repeatedly, that it would only be closed for a number of weeks.

The change to it never closing at all (other than brief spurts when reconfiguring to one lane) is what's new.

conngs0 says: (8/23/16 9:45 PM)
I think CSX has done a decent job of mitigating the inconveniences that weren't obviously going to occur several years ago when this project should have began (rather than delaying it while more and more people and businesses moved into the area), so I'm hopeful that continues to be the case with this phase.

Likewise, I'm hopeful that the DC government is willing/able to make any necessary adjustments to that traffic light at 6th on the off ramp from the freeway. Despite the fact that the ramp is quite long, it might be necessary to extend the length of the green light if everyone is going to be making a left there.

walt says: (8/24/16 11:43 AM)
If everyone is making a left there, would it make more sense to just cover up that light altogether? There is another light on the north side of the underpass to help filter traffic onto VA Avenue (in either direction).

I agree CSX has done a decent job, but I wouldn't say an exceptional job. I think they go to lengths to be good citizens, but I also think they (like most project management teams) continue to be a bit optimistic and were never really held to any standard for risk. The default answer always seemed to be "it's going to happen just as we planned it to happen". And as soon as an extraordinary event happens (weather?), then all-night construction begins without a word to the neighbors. You couldn't pay me enough to be one of the "front-row residents". They have put up with a lot and then are [still] pretty regularly attacked for expressing their opinions and concerns. Personally, I think everyone in the neighborhood owes them a debt of gratitude for speaking up and asking the tough questions when no one in DC government seemed willing to do the proper due diligence. We have all benefited from safety commitments due to a few people taking a stand. Just my opinion.

JD says: (8/24/16 12:51 PM)
Can't cover up the light because there's still the cross-traffic coming up 5th from south of Virginia (once that decking is done, if it isn't already).

walt says: (8/24/16 3:40 PM)
Oh, true on that JD. I don't know why I forgot about that. I take that road myself usually. :(

JD says: (8/24/16 6:07 PM)
In other news, a reader sent the link for the Homewood Suites at 50 M, "now accepting reservations" starting Jan. 16, 2017. (just in time for the inauguration!)


I figured that October 2016 on the signs a few months back was optimistic.

Chaifetz10 says: (8/26/16 2:18 PM)
Have a random question for anyone and everyone here as 1) It's technically outside of the steel curtain of JD's boundaries and 2) I can't find anything on any of the other sites such as Curbed and SWLQTC:

Does anyone know if or when the current concrete manufacturing plant diagonally across from Nats stadium will be redeveloped? Have there been any proposals or discussions about it closing down? Very curious to know since Potomac Ave SW is in absolutely dreadful shape and it would be the only industrial pocket between the new United Stadium and S Capitol St.

I'll hang up and listen. Thanks!

SWill says: (8/29/16 11:10 AM)
@Chaifetz10: I believe that site is owned by Steuart Investments. The warehouse building adjacent will be demolished and become part of the traffic oval next to the new Douglass Bridge. I have not seen plans yet for the Steuart site, but at the pace which Buzzard Point development projects have been announced, I wouldn't be surprised if we don't hear something about that prominent site sometime soon...

Ampersand says: (8/29/16 12:17 PM)
Just in case other people didn't know yet: 5th St to the underpass is open again - one (freshly paved) lane and a pedestrian walkway. I think it opened late last week, although I don't know exactly when.

Completely off-topic: Does anyone know what's up with the sidewalk rebuilding project between 2nd Pl (Canal Park) and 3rd St? They haven't done any work on it for months now, although there's still a bunch of materials sitting at 2nd Pl and L. It seems like they just spontaneously decided that they were done enough and left.

Chaifetz10 says: (8/29/16 1:58 PM)
@SWill: Thank you! Doing some digging on Google, it looks like the site was approved to become a temporary parking lot per the Zoning Commission. interesting that they haven't cleaned it up to use it for this, I'd assume clearing the site would make it easier to attract tenants for future use.

202_cyclist says: (8/30/16 9:16 AM)
My friend said that the DDOT director of bicycle and pedestrian programs was hit by a car this morning that ran a red light. Does anyone have any details about this?

202_cyclist says: (8/30/16 12:04 PM)
UPDATE-- it was a US DOT employee who was hit by the driver that ran a red light at the 4th & M Street intersection. The cyclist was bruised and taken to the hospital but is now okay.

Shogungts says: (8/30/16 3:23 PM)
First off, I am glad to hear that the person who was hit is okay.

I don't know if this played a role at all in what happened this morning, but that intersection needs some updates to the traffic lights in a terrible way. There are a ton of cars going north on 4th street due to the Harris Teeter and they are all in one lane (except for a car or two right before the light) and have to turn left or right (due to 4th Street being southbound only north of M st) which is difficult to do as there is a good amount of cars coming south on 4th (to get to the Harris Teeter) and a ton of foot traffic crossing M. This is further exacerbated on game days/Friday night concerts when there are even more cars and pedestrians.

It seems that adding a left turn signal for the northbound cars would help tremendously. Removing the street parking would also help the situation.

walt says: (8/30/16 3:42 PM)
Our ANC Commissioner Meredith Fascett has been working with DDOT to improve that intersection for a few years. Just last week, she reported on her Facebook page that DDOT had a proposed solution, but it failed to take into account the many requests from pedestrians and residents that Meredith has worked so hard to collect.
Check out her Aug 23 post on Facebook because she is looking for additional feedback and is going to have another public meeting on the topic.

Also, Meredith is fantastic and is up for re-election this November. So please remember to vote this November -- we do NOT want to lose her!

Ampersand says: (8/30/16 4:22 PM)
Walt - thanks for pointing to Meredith's Facebook page. I will definitely be following and contributing there!

snakegriffin says: (8/30/16 4:46 PM)
That's terrible. It doesn't help that there are constantly fire/police/other service vehicles parked in the northbound right turn lane, exacerbating the backup. That combined with southbound left-turning drivers who assume right-of-way creates a nightmare for pedestrians.

The "traffic circle" at 4th and Tingey needs to be addressed as well, but as always, nothing will be done until a pedestrian pays the price.

walt says: (9/21/16 6:00 PM)
Today I used the road with the two way traffic. It already sucks big time. Westbound in the afternoon gets completely backed up with VA drivers waiting to enter 395.
I guess I'll avoid that road as my preferred commute route. Good thing this neighborhood has such easy access from the Douglas Bridge.

JD, if you say the Douglas Bridge construction is set to start at any time before VA Ave changes back, I'll be really sad. It seems as if all the projects and construction going on at the same time are trying to lock me in the neighborhood so I can't get out to work.

JD says: (9/21/16 6:45 PM)
I imagine after a few weeks people will find alternate routes and get a handle on the new flow and things will shake out a bit on Virginia.

At least when the new Douglass Bridge is built, it's being built alongside the existing one, so I would think it won't be until very late in the timeline that there's much in the way of disruptions. As for when it'll start, well, I'm starting to think 2017 is optimistic.

MJM says: (9/22/16 3:31 PM)
Just walked the section and if you didn't know it had been one way for decades you would never know. There is a right arrow on VA off of ramp that is supposed to keep traffic flowing.
Paved lines, no signs. Just need to work on timing for traffic and peds.

Ampersand says: (9/26/16 4:59 PM)
Last Thursday I biked north on 5th/6th from Navy Yard to Capitol Hill. The southern part of Virginia Ave was closed, with all ramp traffic directed to turn left. As I rode up 5th the light turned green, and it remained green for the 10-15 seconds it took me to reach the intersection with the off-ramp. Luckily I looked left before proceeding on the green, because a car going around 30-40 mph completely blew the red light and swung a hard left right in front of me. Shocked, I looked up to my right to confirm that, yes, the ramp traffic had red arrows. Then, as I started to roll again (still had the green), ANOTHER CAR DID THE SAME THING. The second car laid on their horn to rebuke me for getting in their way as they ran a red light, as they missed me by a couple of feet.

Long story short, this might be a great intersection for a giant sign that says "MUST STOP ON RED LIGHT", and maybe even a red light camera. I dread going through there for the next couple of years.

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