About the Tunnel

The Virginia Avenue Tunnel in southeast Washington, D.C., is a crucial part of the United States’ East Coast railroad network. The tunnel lets trains move freight between key ports, manufacturing centers, and consumer markets. Parts of the existing tunnel were constructed in 1872. The tunnel needs to be replaced to meet the growing demands of the American economy and support the increase in freight traffic.

CSX is replacing the old tunnel with two new tunnels, which will be tall enough to let trains carry two freight containers stacked on each car. These trains, called double-stack intermodal freight trains, will carry consumer goods like televisions, clothing and furniture. Double-stack trains can carry twice as much freight as a single-stack train, which helps meet America’s growing need to move more goods by train. Moving more freight on trains also helps reduce highway congestion, maintenance costs and emissions from trucks. Additionally, this project will help better serve customers, bring jobs to the local community, and position the Greater Washington region and the nation for economic growth.

Construction, which started in May 2015, will take up to 42 months to complete. This construction plan was selected by the federal and D.C. governments after a careful review process. Residents who live near the Virginia Avenue Tunnel also played a significant role in shaping the plan. CSX is working with its design-build partner, Clark/Parsons JV, to complete construction.

CSX is committed to completing this project the right way – safely, efficiently, and with respect for our neighbors. We are taking steps to reduce the impact of this project, including:

  • Ensuring access for emergency vehicles.
  • Limiting construction hours. 
  • Limiting high-vibration activities to weekday daytime hours.
  • Controlling dust and reducing construction noise and vibrations.
  • Working closely with the District Department of Transportation to monitor and maintain traffic flow. 
  • Addressing a problem if it occurs. We have a straightforward proven claims process to pay for actual damages we cause.
  • Creating a community fund to offset construction inconveniences.
  • Providing information and listening to our neighbors.
Chuck Gullakson
Chief Project Engineer – CSX

Charles (Chuck) Gullakson is CSX assistant vice president – National Gateway and chief engineering officer for the Virginia Avenue Tunnel Reconstruction Project. Chuck has been employed by CSX for 32 years and has been responsible for a wide variety of transportation infrastructure projects over the course of his career. His primary responsibilities in recent years have been to lead cross-functional teams working with public agencies for public and private funded infrastructure projects and to provide engineering project management services for CSX capital projects.

Chuck is a native of Illinois and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois in 1983. Following graduation, he was hired by CSX predecessor, Chessie System, and has held a number of positions at various locations across the CSX network over the course of his more than 30-year career. Chuck completed his MBA at the University of Florida in 2004 and is a registered professional engineer. Chuck and his family reside in the Virginia Avenue community.

Brandon Knapp
Project Manager – CSX

Brandon Knapp is the CSX project manager for the Virginia Avenue Tunnel. He is in charge of day-to- day project management and serves as CSX’s onsite point of contact. His career with CSX began in 2005 in Jacksonville, Fla. and he has held various positions within the company including roles in Engineering – Maintenance of Way, and Design and Construction. In his previous role as a project manager in Richmond, Va., Brandon worked closely with many third-party agencies while overseeing the successful development of several major infrastructure projects.

“My favorite things to do in southeast DC are exploring the many great local restaurants and taking in Nationals games.”

Molly Mitzner
Community Engagement – CSX

Molly Mitzner supports CSX's community engagement programs in the Virginia Avenue Tunnel Community Office, and serves as a resource for local residents by fielding questions and concerns about the project and supporting outreach with community organizations, non-profits and neighborhood organizations. Prior to joining CSX, Molly participated in City Year, an education nonprofit that focuses on addressing the drop-out crisis in America’s schools. Through this Americorps program, she served as a tutor and mentor to first grade students at Kimball Elementary School in southeast DC.

“My favorite thing to do in the SE Navy Yard neighborhood is walk around by the river at Yards Park!”

Arash Parham
Construction Manager – Clark/Parsons

Arash Parham is the construction manager for Clark/Parsons, a joint venture between Clark Construction and Parsons Transportation Group. He and his team are responsible for the design and construction of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel. He oversees daily construction operations and works closely with CSX's designated project manager as well as DDOT representatives on a daily basis. Arash has worked with Clark Construction for nearly 10 years, and has been involved in some of the region’s largest transportation projects during that time, including the Dulles Automated People Mover and the Maryland Intercounty Connector projects.

“Eastern Market is one of my favorite spots. My wife and I especially like the weekend arts and crafts market and the flea market. We also enjoy going to restaurants on Barracks Row.”

Project Partners

The Virginia Avenue Tunnel reconstruction project is primarily funded by CSX, with a contribution from the state of Virginia. No federal or D.C. funding is being used. Our local and federal project partners, the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDoT) and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), have been closely involved in the project since its inception.

CSX has worked with DDoT and FHWA through the rigorous National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to ensure all community impacts are understood, addressed and mitigated. Both agencies will continue to oversee the project until it is completed.

District Department of Transportation

DDOT is committed to achieving an exceptional quality of life in the nation’s capital through more sustainable travel practices, safer streets and outstanding access to goods and services.

U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration serves the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.

Transportation Benefits

The Virginia Avenue Tunnel is an important part of CSX’s regional freight network, which consists of 21,000 miles of track in 23 states and Canada. The reconstruction project will contribute to economic growth by increasing the efficiency of freight rail infrastructure, and it will improve the flow of rail traffic throughout the country by expanding the use of fuel-efficient double-stack trains to transport intermodal containers.

Intermodal transportation refers to the combination of ocean vessels, trucks and rail used to move consumer goods in standardized containers. A double-stack corridor, where the containers are stacked one on top of the other on the rail car, allows CSX to move twice as many containers on the same number of trains. That means faster service for customers and lower emissions for all of us. Learn more.

The Virginia Avenue Tunnel is a critical bottleneck for freight rail traffic into and through the District of Columbia. Modernizing the tunnel for double-stack, double-track service will:

  • Alleviate the congestion caused by the bottleneck and allow for double-stacked intermodal containers to move through the tunnel.
  • Help increase the flow of traffic at our nation’s ports and stimulate economic activity in America’s port cities.
  • Reduce highway congestion by moving more freight by rail, which reduces highway maintenance costs. One freight train can carry the load of more than 280 trucks.

The Promise of Tomorrow

The U.S. freight railroad system is a major competitive advantage for American businesses. CSX and the rail industry provide customers – including those in the District of Columbia – with access to an interconnected transportation network that connects the critical points in North American commerce to the global supply chain. The Virginia Avenue Tunnel reconstruction is an important part of keeping that system up-to-date and competitive.

Sustainable Infrastructure

CSX’s investment in sustainable infrastructure will continue to improve national shipping efficiency overall while decreasing the environmental impact of our nation’s growing economy. Our network will play a key role in providing the essential transportation infrastructure required by an ever-growing population. Learn more.

Clean Air

At CSX, environmental stewardship is as vital to our business as delivering our customers’ goods on time. A primary focus is finding ways to continue improving air quality. Learn more.

Fuel Efficiency

Moving freight by rail is four times more fuel-efficient than moving freight on the highway. At CSX, we’re constantly working on innovative technologies that lead to even greater gains in fuel efficiency. Learn more.

Economy

If it’s in your life, it’s probably on a CSX train. CSX trains carry a variety of commodities important to our economy and way of life. Rail transportation is vital to the health of American industry, and CSX is continuing to do its part to help move the economy in the right direction. Learn more.

For more information on the DC benefits of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, click here.

Video

How It Gets Here: Trains and the Green Supply Chain

Ever wonder how the products you use every day get from manufacturer to your doorstep? Press play to learn how!

Tunnel History

For more than 110 years, the Virginia Avenue Tunnel has allowed trains to deliver essential goods to businesses and consumers in the District of Columbia and throughout the East Coast.

America’s growing population means we’re asking more of our nation’s freight rail infrastructure with each passing year. As early as the 1950s, the Virginia Avenue Tunnel was identified as a bottleneck for freight rail traffic moving through the District of Columbia, which was inhibiting the growth of freight and passenger rail services in and around the Greater Washington Metropolitan Region.

1872

Original two-track segment of Virginia Avenue Tunnel is constructed.

1901

Congress passes legislation to consolidate rail tracks, allow development of the National Mall and remove at-grade rail crossings in the District. This included extending Virginia Avenue Tunnel from 8th Street westward to just beyond 2nd Street. The law allowed the Pennsylvania Railroad to build, maintain and operate the tunnel with capacity for two to four tracks.

1905

The Virginia Avenue Tunnel extension is completed.

1936

Pennsylvania Railroad removes the second track from the Virginia Avenue Tunnel to accommodate electrification and increasingly large railroad equipment.

1950

National Capital Park and Planning Commission proposes restoring the second track in the Virginia Avenue Tunnel.

1985

A 350-foot section of the tunnel near 5th Street SE collapses. The tunnel and streets are closed for several months during emergency repairs while a 600-foot section of the tunnel is reinforced and reconstructed.

1998

Surface Transportation Board (STB) approves CSX’s acquisition of a portion of the Conrail system through Washington, D.C., including the Virginia Avenue Tunnel.

1999

  • Amtrak reports to Congress that the Virginia Avenue Tunnel is in need of extensive structural rehabilitation and that its single track alignment is a major chokepoint in north-south movement of freight and a major bottleneck in passenger train operations south of Washington.
  • CSX begins operations of former Conrail lines and seeks proposals for the reconstruction of Virginia Avenue Tunnel.

2002

The Mid-Atlantic Rail Operations Planning Study lists the Virginia Avenue Tunnel as major bottleneck along I-95 corridor which needs replacing.

2007

A Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments National Capital Transportation Planning Board study identifies the Virginia Avenue Tunnel as a chokepoint that needs to be replaced and expanded.

2008

  • CSX begins meetings with DDOT, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and other agencies to discuss plans for the National Gateway and the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project.
  • Commonwealth of Virginia’s Statewide Rail Plan supports replacing Virginia Avenue Tunnel.

2009

  • The National Gateway and 13 associated regional projects – including the Virginia Avenue Tunnel – receive public support from various public officials and government agencies.
  • Maryland Statewide Freight Plan supports replacing Virginia Avenue Tunnel.
  • Mid-Atlantic Rail Operations Phase II Study supports replacing Virginia Avenue Tunnel.

2010

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ National Capital Region Freight Plan includes support for replacing of Virginia Avenue Tunnel in six-year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

2011

  • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) assumes lead agency status for National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) compliance on Virginia Avenue Tunnel project.
  • CSX announces funding for the Virginia Avenue Tunnel as part of Phase II of the National Gateway.
  • FHWA and DDOT hold first NEPA public meeting regarding purpose and need for the tunnel. In total, 27 public meetings were held before and during the NEPA process.

2012

FHWA elevates the project’s NEPA classification from an Environmental Assessment to preparation of a full Environmental Impact Statement.

2013

  • FHWA and DDOT release the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Virginia Avenue Tunnel.
  • Virginia Statewide Rail Plan includes support for replacing Virginia Avenue Tunnel in six-year Transportation Improvement Plan.

2014

  • FHWA and DDOT releases Final EIS.
  • National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 Memorandum of Agreement.
  • FHWA issues a Record of Decision.

Historical Photos

No media in this set.