A project to reconstruct the CSX freight Virginia Avenue Tunnel has been studied for the last two years. This National Environmental Protection Act study, led by DC’s Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, has culminated so far in a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that was released in July 2013.
At its September 10th meeting, ANC6B voted 9-0 to send a letter with comprehensive comments to DDOT and FHWA on the Draft EIS. A link to the 12-page letter is below. Here is a summary:
The Draft EIS presented 4 alternatives, one of which included a “no build” option. Over the course of the study, many alternatives were presented in public meetings and subjected to public comment and review. The 4 alternatives in the Draft EIS were the result of that winnowing process. ANC6B did not support the No Build option. Nor, did it fully support any of the 3 Build alternatives. Instead, ANC6B provided a list of criteria that its community would prefer to see in the alternative chosen and presented in the Final EIS. Thus, we asked for a hybrid.
The community will be impacted in a myriad ways by any reconstruction of the VAT. In its review of the hundreds of pages of the draft and its technical appendices, ANC6B concluded that maintenance of traffic (for vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles), noise, and vibration were the most significant. And, so we devoted a lot of attention to those issues in the letter.
Also, because the path of the tunnel crosses a portion of ANC6B that is in the Capitol Hill Historica District, we emphasized the need to protect the people and businesses and the 150 year old buildings in that area.
And, finally, we were very demanding in the letter that residents and businesses who will endure the 3-5 years of construction receive a number of benefits (or, as the study says “mitigations”) during the post-construction phase. We want a new linear park with a bike trail and pedestrian walkway stretching along the south side of the Freeway from Garfield Park to Virginia Avenue Park. And, because it will be torn up during construction, we want a totally redesigned and installed Virginia Avenue Park, one that will serve not just that area but all residents of ANC6B and their neighbors.
The next step in this long process is the issuance of the Final EIS and public hearing and a Record of Decision. The start of eventual construction will depend on whether the ROD supports reconstruction of the tunnel and, if so, how long it takes to get through the rest of the NEPA process. Year 2015?
Now … here is the full document: ANC6B Comments on CSX VAT DEIS Sep 2013