Community Rejects Approval of CSX Tunnel; Calls on DC Council to Intervene

For Release: November 4th, 2014

Contact: Natalie Skidmore, 202.657.1911, Twitter @DCSafeRail,

Community Rejects Approval of CSX Tunnel; Calls on DC Council to Intervene

Demonstration to Urge No District Permits Until New Environmental Statement

Community groups and individuals living near the proposed CSX Virginia Avenue Tunnel in Southeast DC firmly and categorically rejected the move today by the Federal Highway Administration and District Department of Transportation to rubber stamp the Record of Decision under the Environmental Impact Statement review process.  CSX’s proposal calls for two tunnels which will increase CSX’s right of way and permit freight trains to operate in a partially open trench during the multi-year construction project.  Documents only recently released by DDOT show that agency secretly pre-approved the double tunnel construction as early as 2010.

Because the DC Council is currently undertaking a comprehensive Rail Plan study, District residents firmly believe the rush to approve this project is premature.  Therefore, these residents are calling on the DC Council to enact legislation putting a moratorium on further rail permits until the Rail Plan is finalized.  The residents are planning a demonstration to voice these concerns as follows:

What: DCSafeRail ‘No CSX Tunnel’ Demonstration

Where: U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters, New Jersey Ave. and M St. SE

When: 6pm-7pm tonight

“This decision shows that the public has never been treated fairly.  Our concerns – namely the grave public health and safety risks posed by the project and how passenger and commuter rail in the District can expand – have consistently been ignored. And we know now that DDOT had pre-approved CSX’s preferred plan from the very beginning before any environmental review had been conducted,” said Helen Douglas of DCSafeRail, the group against the expanded tunnels. “This project should NOT be granted any permits until the appropriate answers are provided, including waiting for completion of the Council’s Rail Plan so that its analyses and conclusions are part of a new or modified environmental review.”

DCSafeRail also points out that there is ample, recent precedent for a local rejection of a private rail project that threatens the health and safety of its citizens.  Specifically, Maryland transportation officials cancelled a long-planned CSX intermodal rail facility in the Morrell Park neighborhood of Baltimore because the proposal, according to Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, had created a burden “at the expense of our residents and local businesses.”  DCSafeRail also notes that the Environmental Impact Statement directly states that the current tunnel has “decades” of useful life, thus allowing time for good planning for the environment and the District’s transportation future.