The commute in the D.C. region won’t get much better than what drivers and transit riders will see over the next few weeks, the height of the summer vacation season.
And changes in several work zones also should improve the experience for thousands of drivers. The Capital Weather Gang says we’ll get a bit of a break on the heat and humidity early this week, before they build up again later. Another cool front could bring storms on Friday.
Join me at noon EDT Monday for our weekly online conversation about traffic and transit issues in the D.C. area.
Drivers on their way toward the Woodrow Wilson Bridge along the Capital Beltway’s outer loop in Virginia should find conditions much improved this week, with all five outer loop lanes open in the Telegraph Road area.
That’s something they’ve never seen. The opening up of this area represents a milestone in the history of the project, which involved rebuilding the Wilson Bridge and the four nearby interchanges.
It means that drivers on the outer loop no longer will endure the single LOCAL lane pattern of the recent paving phase. But more important for the long run, it means they finally can take full advantage of the improvement that came with the widening of the Wilson Bridge. No more bottleneck for a lane reduction on the approach to the bridge. The D.C. region’s commuters and I-95 drivers all along the East Coast will welcome this one.
11th Street Bridge
The change on the outer loop in Virginia is the second breakthrough in commuting during the past week. The first came with the opening of the new ramp from southbound D.C. 295 to the 11th Street Bridge and the Southeast-Southwest Freeway.
That gives commuters a direct highway connection between Maryland and Virginia via D.C. The other part of the new link, the ramp from the bridge to northbound D.C. 295, is scheduled to open this fall.
If you drive into D.C. via Route 50 and New York Avenue to reach I-395 and the 14th Street Bridge, consider getting off Route 50 for southbound D.C. 295 and using the new ramp to reach I-395 by highway instead of local streets.
Northwest Branch bridge
There’s a new configuration at the Beltway’s Northwest Branch Bridge in Silver Spring. The work zone for the bridge rehabilitation is now aligned so that two lanes pass on either side of the concrete barrier.
This is easier than the previous configuration, which had three lanes to the left and one to the right of the barrier. But the Monday morning traffic on the outer loop remained congested in that area, despite the change and the reduced summer traffic.
Project managers hope to have the work done by the end of the year.
South Capitol Street
Monday through Thursday, DC Water plans work in two of the northbound lanes on South Capitol Street SE near Anacostia Drive. Traffic will be reduced to one northbound lane between Anacostia Drive and Suitland Parkway. Southbound lanes will not be affected.
Rockville Pike paving
The Maryland State Highway Administration plans to do night time paving this week along Rockville Pike between South Drive and Jones Bridge Road in Bethesda.
Beginning Monday night, workers will close one lane in each direction at 7 p.m., then two lanes at 10 p.m. All lanes will be open to traffic no later than 5 a.m. daily till the project is done, which should be by the end of August. This is part of the utility relocation in Bethesda for the state’s effort to ease traffic congestion around the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
For those still picking their getaway routes for summer vacation trips out of the D.C. region, check the summer getaway guide.
On Sunday’s Commuter page, I also described some summer driving routes that are closer to home.
The best times to use the Bay Bridge are Thursdays and Fridays before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m., Saturdays before 7 a.m. and after 5 p.m., and Sundays before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m.
This coming weekend, Metro’s major track work is scheduled to shift to the west side of the Red Line, where buses will replace trains between Grosvenor and Friendship Heights.
Riders continue to write in with complaints about Metro’s Rush Plus service, especially on the Blue Line. I’ll have more of their letters in upcoming columns.
I think people on the platforms are getting better at recognizing a hot car as soon as the doors open and scooting to an adjacent car in search of a more moderate temperature. Meanwhile, those who are already inside are appearing more likely than in years past to abandon a hot car as soon as they can.
But I worry about those who remain aboard, performing what my chat commenter described as commuter calculus in favor of a comfortable seat over a comfortable temperature.
The strategy may work for a few stops. But on a bad day, when the temperature in those cars can be in the 90s, a long ride will leave you sluggish and sullen.