Two years ago, Melinda Byrd and her fiance put big money down on a new townhouse in Capitol Quarter, a well-regarded complex of homes being built between the U.S. Capitol building and the city's new baseball stadium, an area where homes start at around $600,000.
But Byrd and other residents were startled to hear that the construction of the new homes is not the only construction planned in the immediate area.
They've just learned that CSX railroad is planning to rip up and replace an old train tunnel that runs under Virginia Avenue S.E., just 30 feet from the front doors of some of the townhomes.
The 1904 tunnel is a single-track route that snakes from the southeast side of town toward Maryland. Its single track is too small to handle larger, double-stacked train cars. CSX wants to spend $160 million to rip open Virginia Avenue S.E., rebuild the tunnel and then close it back up.
That's a minumum of three years of heavy construction, noise and dirt -- "right outside our door," said Melinda Byrd in an interview with NBC4.
Although the project -- part of CSX's $800 miillion plan to update train tracks on the East Coast -- is still awaiting approval and financing, CSX says it's critical to fix what it calls the "bottleneck" under Virginia Avenue. It hopes to have the work completed by 2014-15, when revisions to the Panama Canal will send even more freight shipments north.
CSX spokesman Robert Sullivan told us that the train company is sensitive to its neighbors. He said the company has been meeting with repreesentatives to lay out the best way to minimize any disruptions.
But that's not enough for Melinda Byrd. She says she and her husband had planed to move into the city from Virginia, enjoy the redeveloping Southeast quadrant, take in a few baseball games and raise a family in their new community. "What do we do now?" she said.