The days sure get shorter in a hurry during October. Watch for children at bus stops and at crossings early on these darker mornings. Many road crews will be pressing to get jobs done before the asphalt plants have to shut for the season.
The Capital Weather Gang said commuters should expect a warm front to arrive with showers on Tuesday. The rest of the work week will feel more like mid-September than October.
The Washington Nationals are at Nationals Park through Wednesday for their final homestand of the regular season. The Wednesday game against the Phillies starts at 1:05 p.m.
Here are some highlights for the rest of the commuting week.
I-95 HOV lanes
The ramp from the Interstate 95 southbound HOV lanes to the regular I-95 lanes south of the Fairfax County Parkway is scheduled to close permanently this week to make room for construction of the 95 Express Lanes, the other high-occupancy toll lanes project.
With that ramp closed, HOV drivers should move to the regular lanes by using the left exit ramp marked “Route 286 Fairfax County Parkway/Newington/Ft. Belvoir.” If they miss that, the next chance to leave the southbound HOV lanes will be Exit 161 for Route 1 or Exit 160 for Gordon Boulevard (Route 123) in Woodbridge, the Virginia Department of Transportation said.
I-66 ramp closing
This closing isn’t scheduled to occur for two weeks, but commuters might want to start developing their strategies for it now.
The Virginia Department of Transportation plans to close the left-lane ramp on eastbound Interstate 66 that high-occupancy vehicles take to reach the Capital Beltway’s inner loop, heading north. Crews will start converting it into a ramp for the 495 Express Lanes, scheduled to open by the end of the year.
There’s still the ramp on the right side from I-66 East, which now brings traffic in on the right side of the inner loop. But the ramp closing on the left side will take some getting used to, and the change could affect all drivers in this congested area.
11th Street Bridge ramp
Just south of the 11th Street Bridge, a new ramp from northbound Interstate 295 will link up with one of the three bridge spans, the one know as the local bridge. That could happen during the middle of this week.
If you’re among the many morning commuters who come in on Suitland Parkway and then drive onto I-295 to reach the 11th Street Bridge, this could be the breakthrough you’ve been waiting for. In fact, it’s a break for all drivers in this very congested area, because it will eliminate a lot of lane changing.
Drivers using this new ramp need to keep in mind that it leads up to an intersection that will be controlled by a new traffic signal. A left turn will take them across the river, toward the Navy Yard and Capitol Hill, and a right turn will take them into Anacostia.
A short distance away, work continues on the ramp that will help those Navy Yard/Capitol Hill drivers get back home in the afternoon. It will go from the outbound local bridge onto southbound I-295, and should open in mid-October.
Use new ramp
One of the biggest improvements in the region’s transportation network occurred in the middle of the summer, but many drivers have yet to discover it.
The ramp from southbound D.C. 295 onto the inbound 11th Street Bridge creates a regional freeway connection that many drivers have wanted for decades.
But right now, there’s one set of drivers that would particularly benefit if they could break an old commuting habit and use this new access point. Drivers who use inbound Pennsylvania Avenue SE, the Sousa Bridge over the Anacostia River and the Southeast-Southwest Freeway are slowed because one lane of the westbound Southeast Freeway is closed..
Before they reach the Sousa Bridge, they should look for the detour signs at the entrance ramp for southbound D.C. 295. After going a little way on 295, they can take that new ramp onto the 11th Street Bridge and pick up the Southeast-Southwest Freeway.
Southeast Freeway lane closings
One westbound lane on the Southeast Freeway is now closed at all times between Pennsylvania Avenue SE and Eighth Street SE, but the entire westbound side is scheduled to be closed overnight Wednesday from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. During those hours, workers will be re-striping lanes for a new 11th Street SE ramp to the westbound I-695 Southeast-Southwest Freeway (I-695). The eastbound freeway along this stretch will remain open.
George Washington Parkway
The situation remains the same during the day along the GW Parkway’s northbound lanes in Rosslyn: The left lane is closed at all times between the Key Bridge and Spout Run. The middle lane may be closed from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays.
But this week, night work is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. to 5 a.m., and that could result in additional lane closings. And there’s weekend work coming..
From 7:15 p.m. Friday through 5:30 a.m. Monday, all lanes of the northbound parkway will be closed between Spout Run and Chain Bridge Road.
The Capital Beltway lanes west of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge are done, but the Telegraph Road interchange remains a very active work zone. Here’s a highlight for this week:
The ramp from the Beltway’s outer loop to Telegraph Road South, Huntington Avenue and North Kings Highway will be closed from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Wednesday. Instead, continue to Route 1 South to Huntington/Kings Highway West to Telegraph Road South.
The Telegraph Road ramp to North Kings Highway East or the ramp to Huntington Avenue East may be closed during the same hours. Watch for detour signs.
Metrobus schedule changes
Several Metrobus routes have changed schedules. Metro said the revisions are part of a program to improve on-time performance, make the schedules more reliable and reduce crowding.
Some highlights: The 16F and 16Y routes on Columbia Pike become limited-stop MetroExtra services. The limited-stop MetroExtra buses also will be used on the 28X route along Leesburg Pike. Schedules will be adjusted on the MetroExtra J4 College Park-Bethesda route, the Y5, Y7, Y8, and Y9 routes on Georgia Avenue in Maryland and on REX, the Richmond Highway Express line in Virginia.
Metro has introduced a new feature for SmarTrip card users. Called Auto Reload, it lets riders add value to their cards automatically when the balance drops below a certain level. Drivers who use E-ZPass accounts to pay tolls will be familiar with this process.
To use the SmarTrip feature, a rider must register the card and have an online account. Then the rider can link the SmarTrip to a credit or debit card and set up the automatic maintenance of a balance.
The system also can work for a rider who regularly adds one of the bus or rail passes to a SmarTrip card. The account holder can set up Auto Reload to trigger a certain number of days before the old pass expires.
D.C. resumes breath tests
D.C. police are again using breath tests of people suspected of drunk driving. This follows a lengthy remake of the program that began after a consultant found that some machines were giving incorrect readings.
The overhaul of the breath testing program was accompanied by a toughening of the District’s drunken driving penalties. People convicted of driving under the influence are subject to fines of up to $1,000 and 180 days in jail. A person with a .20 blood alcohol level faces a mandatory jail term of at least 10 days, a doubling of the old penalty.