D.C.

Virginia Avenue Tunnel expansion proposed

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WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Some Washington residents are expressing concerns about a proposed project in Southeast. It involves expanding the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, which is used by trains.

Photo: FuLinHyu via Flickr

“Of course it’s a big deal, and of course I’m concerned about it,” says James Bennett.

“The proximity is just very threatening to us,” says Helen Douglas.

The proposed expansion of the tunnel packed a meeting at the Capper Senior Apartment on Saturday. 

“We’re talking about major, massive construction, a complex process while moving freight,” says Melissa Lee, an opponent to the tunnel expansion. “Danger written through this.”

CSX says it wants to widen and deepen the tunnel to allow double-stacking of its freight trains and build a second track for two-way traffic.

“This is not about moving more hazmats or anything…” says Louis Renjel of CSX.

A company spokesman says the $200 million expansion would be used to move consumer goods, not hazardous materials.

“We are thinking everything through from environmental to day-to-day,” says Renjel. “We want to modernize the tunnel. The tunnel is over 100 years old, so it’s ending its useful life.”

But some residents aren’t so sure. The project would require an open trench near parks, schools, and homes.

“The noise pollution, the air pollution, and my concern is about the drilling,” Bennett says.

Opponents point to a draft environmental impact statement, which states how nearby residents may need to keep their windows closed during the construction.

“One study has a 120-car train running through an open trench, the other study talks about an 8-car train. We need details,” Lee says.

But for some, CSX’s proposal to continue running freight alongside the construction site is just too much.

“We feel the vibrations running through the tunnel now,” Douglas says. “If you need to do this right, you need to reroute it outside of the city.”

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