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The Federal Highway Administration (FHW) has approved a preferred construction alternative for CSX Corp.'s Virginia Avenue Tunnel project in Washington, D.C., enabling the Class I to complete design work and initiate the construction permitting process.The decision marks the completion of an extensive environmental review conducted jointly with the District of Columbia Department of Transportation that incorporated three years of input from residents, businesses and government agencies in the southeast D.C. neighborhood around the tunnel, CSX officials said in a press release. The FHW approved temporary closure of Interstate 695 ramps located at 6th and 8th streets, and the occupancy of a portion of the 11th Street bridge right of way along the interstate.Owned and maintained by CSX, the 4,000-foot, single-track tunnel is located beneath the eastbound lanes of Virginia Avenue. The Class I plans to reconstruct and rehabilitate the 110-year-old tunnel — including the addition of a second set of tracks — to accommodate double-stack trains, eliminate a chokepoint caused by the single track that impacts passenger trains in the region and improve the flow of freight traffic through D.C. The tunnel is one of the larger components of CSX's National Gateway, an initiative aimed at creating a double-stack intermodal corridor to link Mid-Atlantic ports with Midwestern markets for domestic and imported products."The tunnel is a critical piece of our national and regional transportation infrastructure. Reconstructing the aging tunnel will eliminate a long-standing rail bottleneck that impacts freight and commuter rail, and it will increase the network's capacity ahead of anticipated growth in freight-rail traffic," said Louis Renjel Jr., CSX's vice president of strategic infrastructure initiatives.CSX and its design/build contractor, Clark/Parsons, now expect to soon finalize the project's design and begin applying for construction permits. Major construction is slated to begin in the next several months. In response to residents' feedback, the selected construction alternative has the shortest timespan (30 to 42 months) and ensures that trains operate in enclosed tunnels in front of nearby homes.CSX plans to use a new website, social media, events, briefings and other interactive tools to inform area residents and businesses about the project's progress. The railroad also established a neighborhood office staffed during regular business hours.
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