With the National Gateway project already under way in North Carolina and Ohio, many people left a recent meeting feeling CSX has done little to plan for Capitol Hill community objections and concessions.
At ANC6B’s November meeting, CSX’s Stephen Flippin told community members and business owners that the public “can’t stop [freight rail] growth” and the demand for improved freight rail systems. Local residents said Flippin’s presentation did little more than champion the expansion of East Coast freight rail systems, and many meeting attendees wondered if CSX was concerned at all about the project’s impact on the community that surrounds the Virgina Avenue tunnel.
National Gateway and the Virginia Avenue Tunnel Expansion
As a part of the National Gateway project, CSX plans to completely remove Virginia Avenue SE from 2nd Street SE to 11th Street SE and expose the train tunnel so that contractors can both raise and widen the existing train tunnel. The proposed tunnel expansion will allow double stacked trains to travel simultaneously north and south through the now congested corridor. If CSX can secure the government funding needed to complete the project, which is expected to take from two to three years to complete, construction will begin in 2011.
While temporary bridges over the nine-block work site will allow cars, bikes and pedestrians to travel north and south on numbered roads from 2nd Street SE to 11th Street SE, residents and businesses will be disrupted by new traffic patterns and construction noise and debris created by an exposed track system and construction site.
For the many community members and business owners at Tuesday’s meeting, concerns were about shifting traffic patterns, construction noise and property obstructions brought on by removing a nine-block stretch of road for three years.
Many community members discussed the increase in Navy Yard and commercial traffic on small, residential streets, as well as the increase in noise from train and vehicular traffic and tunnel construction. Rebecca Bisgyer, who owns DogMa, a daycare and boarding facility for dogs located at 821 Virginia Ave. SE, expressed concern that her business would greatly suffer, if not fail, by removing Virginia Avenue access to her business.
Soon-to-be owners of homes in Capitol Quarter talked about large deposits on homes that weren’t next to a major construction site when they placed deposits and picked out floor treatments and cabinet colors two years ago. “How will I access my garage, that I paid a lot of money for, when the alley access is on Virginia Ave,” asked a frustrated Capitol Quarter homeowner.
Flippin couldn’t offer answers about the true impact on those who so heavily rely on access to Virginia Ave. Questions about community concessions were largely unanswered by CSX employees armed with more power point presentation slides than answers.
In anticipation of the community meeting, Councilmember Tommy Wells was asked to respond to CSX’s plans to offer community concessions.
According to Wells’ Chief of Staff Charles Allen, “[our] office has talked with CSX about ways in which the impact of the project could be minimized including adding trees as a noise buffer in Garfield Park and turning train horns inward. Councilmember Wells also expects CSX to fund community outreach projects in areas impacted, “such as helping fund a renovated skate park area and green space that connects Garfield and Canal Parks.”
“Despite the District having no oversight over CSX,” says Allen, “they approached Councilmember Wells several months ago about their National Gateway project. [Councilmember Well’s] first priority was to have them reach out to community groups and leaders to make sure no one is caught off guard. At his suggestion, CSX reached out to groups that likely will be directly impacted including: ANC 6B;CFriends of Garfield Park Association; Barracks Row; The Capitol Hill Restoration Society; Cap Riverfront BID; Capitol Hill BID; Capitol Hill Community Foundation; Navy Yard; Marine Barracks; and others.”
CSX will continue to meet with business and community groups, including:
National Capitol Planning Commission, today – CSX will meet with NCPC staff to determine what role, if any, NCPC will have in the project.
Garfield Park Association, tonight – 7 p.m, Capitol Hill Day School, 210 South Carolina Avenue, SE.
Restoration Society, date not yet confirmed
Capitol Hill Community Foundation, meeting requested
Capitol Hill Bid, meeting requested
Capitol Riverfront, meeting requested
CSX is currently working with the District Department of Transportation to perform traffic calming studies and has begun work on their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance document, which assesses the environmental impact (including noise) of the project.
CSX will bring a completed traffic calming study and environmental impact information to a future ANC6B.