Federal Court Refuses to Enjoin Renovation of Historic Railroad Tunnel in Washington, DC


The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has denied a request for a preliminary injunction to stop the U.S. Department of Transportation from granting necessary permits to begin the reconstruction and repair of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, a tunnel which for 111 years has facilitated rail transportation through and under the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC. The case is Committee of 100 on the Federal City v. Anthony Foxx, Secretary of the US Department of Transportation, and it was decided on April 7, 2015.

CSX Transportation, Inc. (CSXT) owns the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, and plans to repair and renovate the tunnel which no longer provides efficient service, and requires constant repair and maintenance. CSXT expects that it will take 30 to 42 months to complete the project, which is supported by the Department of Transportation, the District of Columbia Government, AMTRAK, and many regional government agencies. In June 2014, the final environmental impact statement (EIS) was completed, and it consists of six volumes, 13 appendices and over 2500 pages. Committee of 100 on the Federal City, a non-profit group that is dedicated to urban planning and historic preservation in Washington, challenged the adequacy of the environmental review, which it argues violates National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

While acknowledging that the project will be long, dusty, noisy and inconvenient to many local residents (as well as displacing over 200 trees), the District Court determined that the environmental review was satisfactory, and denied the Committee of 100 on the Federal City’s request for a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Department of Transportation from issuing the permits necessary to begin construction. The District Court determined that the balance of equities clearly favors the defendants and the public interest. According to the District Court , there is a substantial interest in modernizing this deteriorating and outmoded railroad tunnel, making it capable of handling contemplated large increases in railroad traffic safely and efficiently, and the project will be of inestimable value to Washington and the East Coast.