By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor, Progressive Railroading Magazine
CSX’s multiyear effort to eliminate a major rail chokepoint and modernize aging infrastructure in Washington, D.C., has just passed the halfway point. That milestone moves the Virginia Avenue Tunnel reconstruction project a bit closer to 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. Work began in May 2015 and the first of two planned phases was completed in late 2016.
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.