The FEIS incorporates feedback from the community and identifies “Alternative 3: Two New Tunnels” as the Preferred Alternative for construction.
Under the process prescribed by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the agencies considered the alternatives outlined in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), released in July 2013, and determined that Alternative 3 “best meets the project’s purpose and need while addressing community concerns and minimizing impacts to the tunnel’s neighbors.”
Alternative 3, the agencies said, “has the shortest construction timeframe of the build alternatives considered—approximately 30 to 42 months. 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.”
CSX said that it “applauds the FHWA and DDOT for advancing the reconstruction of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel in a way that responds to community concerns in the project’s design and construction plan. 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 commuters and businesses in the District and throughout the region. The release of the FEIS is a critical step forward to modernize the country’s aging infrastructure in a way that promotes the safety and well-being of local neighbors.”
“The preferred alternative is the direct result of years of community input during the environmental review process,” said CSX Vice President Strategic Infrastructure Initiatives Louis Renjel. “It addresses community concerns and prioritizes neighborhood safety and security during construction. Under this plan, construction is expected to take approximately 30 to 42 months and trains will run in an enclosed tunnel in front of residences. This means that 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.”
CSX said its efforts to minimize the impact of construction would include “actions that would be naturally a part of the construction plan; additional actions CSX would take during construction to minimize impacts; and actions CSX would take after construction to help enhance the Virginia Avenue neighborhood.”
Under Alternative 3, 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 (residents directly next to the project) and to Virginia Avenue Tunnel neighborhood organizations, to minimize construction impacts as the residents and organizations choose.
CSX would also make enhancements to the new streetscape to complement the other development in the neighborhood. That effort would include reconstructing Virginia Avenue and other affected areas, including Virginia Avenue Park and the Marine Corps Recreation Facility, “to a standard higher than before construction.” In addition, the FEIS requires significant actions and investments by CSX, including improving access to Garfield Park for wheelchair-dependent individuals; building a continuous bike path between 2nd and 9th Streets connecting Garfield Park and Virginia Avenue Park; straightening the alignment of Virginia Avenue SE within the 400 block to be consistent with the original L’Enfant Plan; improving the traffic lane configuration between 5th/6th and 8th Streets to provide safer and calmer traffic conditions; and installing landscaping and improved street lighting, traffic signals, and crosswalks.
“CSX has a strong track record of working in a way that respects our neighbors,” said Renjel. “We look forward to continuing to talk with the Virginia Avenue community and public officials as we fulfill our commitments to make safety our top priority during and after construction; to minimize the impacts of construction on local residents and businesses; and to collaborate with the community on enhancements that help make a great neighborhood even better.”
The FEIS is available for review for 30 days before an official decision is released, and can be downloaded from www.virginiaavenuetunnel.com. A public meeting will also be held on July 1, 2014, at the Capitol Skyline Hotel, 10 Eye Street SW, Washington, DC 20024. The meeting will include a presentation on the details about construction and will include time to ask questions of the project team.