CSX advances work on key D.C. tunnel

CSX’s multiyear effort to eliminate a major rail chokepoint and modernize aging infrastructure in Washington, D.C., recently passed the halfway point. Now, the Virginia Avenue Tunnel reconstruction project — which began in May 2015 — is in its second act and advancing toward an anticipated mid-2018 completion.

The $250 million, 42-month project calls for replacing a 3,800-foot, single-track tunnel built beneath Virginia Avenue in southeast Washington more than a century ago with two larger one-track tunnels to accommodate double-stack trains. Originally constructed in 1872 by the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad, the tunnel was rebuilt in 1906.

The 18.7-foot-tall tunnel needs to be replaced because it’s near the end of its useful life, has cracked masonry and a deteriorating drainage system, and regularly floods during heavy rains. Plus, its single track causes extensive congestion for both freight and commuter trains.

CSX is counting on the new 4,100-foot-long, 21-foot-tall tunnels to improve the fluidity of freight and passenger trains on one of the region’s busiest rail lines; lessen the impact of freight trains on passenger-rail service by providing two-way traffic; ease highway congestion; and reduce the risk of rail service disruptions caused by flooding and other severe weather.

To learn more about the project, read this article I contributed to an “Under construction” feature in our March issue, which also includes a look at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Purple Line subway extension.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the tunnel reconstruction project and its importance to CSX and the region.

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