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Environmental Impact Statement Pushes Tunnel Project Forward

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The federal environmental impact statement (FEIS) brings the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project one step closer to construction, according to the Washington Post. Opponents within the state are discontent since their safety concerns are reportedly being glossed over by CSX and FEIS.

A recent report released by CSX states that millions of gallons of crude oil are transported statewide every week. The Virginia Avenue Tunnel would not be excluded from transporting oil if it is renovated and put to use. Freight trains can pass through residential neighborhoods carting hundreds of gallons of oil.

The Lynchburg oil spill illustrates the risks of transporting crude and other hazardous materials in Virginia through populated areas.

FEIS advised CSX to move forward with a construction proposal for the Tunnel that attempts to accommodate the train company’s needs and neighbor’s concerns. However, residents’ primary issues remain unresolved. Despite suggestions to reroute the track, their voices went unheard. The Tunnel will also be shifted closer to residential homes. It is claimed that the tunnel will reduce the likelihood of a derailment seriously impacting the community, but residents would rather it be that no derailments occur, period.

CSX says it wants to use the Tunnel to meet the increasing demand for rail freight to come in the next several decades. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, railroad transportation is projected to increase by 35 percent by 2050. Overall trends reflect in the projected numbers: in 2014, four times as much oil is shipped by rail compared to the previous decade. What frustrates residents is that CSX and the federal report highlight the benefits of constructing the railroad for CSX, but fail to respect the harms it could have on their community. Construction will render over one hundred parking spots unusable. Over 230 feet, nearly two blocks, will have open trenches for construction.

CSX has resisted the latest federal regulations that demand rail freights to disclose the content and number of trains that travel through populated locations. Under the rule, railroad companies simply report to city officials so that officials could devise a first response plan that will anticipate a spill or derailment.  Their history of sidestepping the release of necessary information cities need to prepare themselves bodes ill. The future of the relationship between CSX and the communities upon which it imposes its expansionist agenda depends upon its actions today. Perhaps if the concerns of the residents of Virginia Avenue are openly and frankly discussed, CSX can reduce the risk of harm impending accidents will cause in the future.

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