Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) released a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the proposed reconstruction of CSX's Virginia Avenue Tunnel, located immediately beneath Virginia Avenue in southeast District of Columbia.
The FEIS incorporates feedback from the community and identifies “Alternative 3 – Two New Tunnels” as the preferred alternative for construction. The preferred alternative involves replacing the existing Virginia Avenue Tunnel with two new permanent tunnels constructed sequentially. Each new tunnel will have a single railroad track with enough vertical clearance to allow double-stack intermodal container freight trains. A new parallel, south side tunnel will be built first as trains continue operating in the existing Virginia Avenue Tunnel. After the south side tunnel is completed, train operations will switch over to the new tunnel and the existing Virginia Avenue Tunnel will be demolished and rebuilt.
Alternative 3 has the shortest construction timeframe of the build alternatives considered (an estimated 30-42 months, compared to 54-66 months under another alternative). It addresses community concerns about moving trains through an open trench during construction by operating trains in an enclosed tunnel at all times in front of residences. It also maintains access for residents and emergency responders to all homes and cross-streets during the entire construction process.
After the conclusion of the 30-day review period, FHWA will issue a Record of Decision.
CSX is proposing to spend hundreds of millions of company dollars to reconstruct this 110-year old tunnel, to move people and goods more efficiently for the benefit of passengers and businesses in the district and throughout the region.
“The preferred alternative is the direct result of years of community input during the environmental review process. It addresses community concerns and prioritizes neighborhood safety and security during construction,” said Louis Renjel, vice president strategic infrastructure initiatives at CSX. “[This] announcement means CSX and the Virginia Avenue community can focus our ongoing discussions on a single potential construction plan, discuss the potential impacts of that plan and share information about the many things CSX would do to minimize those impacts.”
Under the preferred alternative construction plan, CSX would be required to take certain actions to reduce the impact from construction including limiting construction hours;
controlling dust at the construction site to maintain air quality; reducing construction noise and vibration by creating physical barriers, choosing less noisy construction techniques and doing noise and vibration monitoring; working with DDOT to monitor and maintain traffic flow around the construction site as necessary to reduce impact and providing compensation to the residents who are impacted the most, the residents directly next to the project, and to Virginia Avenue Tunnel neighborhood organizations, to minimize construction impacts as the residents and organizations choose.