VRE Storage Plans Along New York Avenue Corridor Provide Space for Bikes and Pedestrians

Project Location
Image: VRE
Virginia Railway Express (VRE) held a meeting Tuesday, June 27 to discuss preliminary plans for its Midday Storage Facility project. The VRE plans displayed at this meeting now include space for District Department of Transportation's (DDOT) proposal, which potentially allows for better bike and pedestrian infrastructure along the emerging New York Avenue corridor.

The meeting provided a project update and allowed the public to comment on the proposed plan, which is at 30 percent of design. It also was an opportunity to view new sample renderings of "urban design options". Now in the preliminary design phase of the project, the planners use the information gathered at this meeting to work with DDOT, Amtrak, other stake holders and the community to complete an environmental analysis, develop a cost estimate, and adopt a prefered alternative.

Specifically, the project includes planning, designing, and constructing a permanent midday storage facility for VRE trains that travel to the District. The proposed facility will be used to store commuter trains on weekdays between the inbound morning commute and the outbound afternoon commute. The project would replace the current storage space leased from Amtrak at its Ivy City Yard, allowing for longer trains and eventually, an increase in service.

Last year, the initial proposal was unclear with regard to how it would impact plans proposed by DDOT, which had proposed a bike and pedestrian trail adjacent to the yard. VRE plan appeared to use of the entire Amtrak-right-of-way for train storage, leaving little room for pedestrian and bike improvements.

A DDOT alternative for the rehabilitation of New York Avenue, from an urban freeway to a city street. Plans call for creating a bike and pedestrian amenities along this section of the street with alternatives on the "southern" side that runs along the new Hecht Company Warehouse development and the "northern" side, which is adjacent to the proposed VRE yard. A trail on the northern side would allow for a continuous bike route from the West Virginia Avenue circle to 4th Street NE, where DDOT's early plans proposed connecting the trail with an abandoned 1500-foot tunnel that empties near Union Market.

While VRE still plans to use the Union Market tunnel to connect to the yard, VRE clarified its preliminary design regarding the relationship between the yard and New York Avenue by apparently reducing the required space. The image below shows what would likely be a wall or fence separating the yard from the street in areas where the yard is at ground level to the street, generally between Fairview Avenue NE (just east of 9th Street) and the Quality Inn hotel (near 16th Street NE).

The area available for a multi-use trail is listed nominally at 30 feet wide from the curb to Amtrak's property. This could be reduced as it approaches the 9th Street Bridge. Below are artistic renderings of how the yard wall could appear along New York Avenue.

Image: VRE
VRE also provided examples of buffering along the New York Avenue corridor, which could include vegetation fencing, artwork or other decorative barrier. A wall was suggested as both a safety measure to reduce the potential for vandalism or attempts trespass, and a way to reduce sound and pollution from rail operations.

Image: VRE
For the area west of the Ninth Street Bridge, the grade of New York Avenue begins to gradually increase. In this section, the wall is eliminated.

While the total costs of this proposal was not specified, the VRE System Plan 2040 allocates $3 million (in 2013 dollars) for near term improvements (those made between 2014 to 2020), and do not include land acquisition costs. These costs do not include improvements to be made by DDOT as it relates to its project.  Long-term improvements (made between 2031-2040) could total over $40 million and include a deck to allow for the construction of buildings over the area west of 9th street.