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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 09:40 AM ET, 09/17/2012

The week ahead for traffic, transit: Stormy weather, sports crowds, bridge work

The Capital Weather Gang warns commuters about a storm approaching Tuesday, and after that, the last week of summer will be a nice introduction to fall.

While the reenactment of the Antietam battle occurred over the weekend, the 150th anniversary is Monday and events at Sharpsburg, Md., include a 3 p.m. public reading of the names of those killed or mortally wounded on the bloodiest day in American history. See our guide to a Sharpsburg day trip,

The Nationals are back at Nationals Park starting Tuesday for their next to last homestand of the regular season. Sunday will be the first regular seasons game for the Redskins at FedEx Field, and D.C. United will play a Sunday night game at RFK Stadium.

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of action among the major road projects, including a new phase of work that’s part of the District’s 11th Street Bridge project. Here’s what to expect.

11th Street Bridge project

With the three new bridge spans over the Anacostia River substantially
In this file photo, pedestrians pass the recently re-opened 11th Street Bridge just east of the Anacostia River on March 5, 2012. The District Department of Transportation began this construction project in December of 2009 and plans to finish in 2013. The project is D.C.'s first bridge replacement project in more than 40 years. (Jahi Chikwendiu - WASHINGTON POST)
completed, work is focusing on bridge connections. Some will affect the traffic pattern along the Southeast-Southwest Freeway between Eighth Street SE and Barney Circle.

Starting this week, the westbound freeway will go down to a single lane, and by November, this westbound portion will be completely closed for reconstruction. In January, the eastbound lanes will be shut.

Then for the next 18 to 20 months, the District Department of Transportation says, workers will recreate the freeway as boulevard, adding about 20 feet of fill that will raise to road surface to the level of local streets.

There’s a lot more to tell about this project in a separate posting, but for now, here’s some advice for drivers: Heading toward downtown D.C., you can avoid additional traffic congestion by using the new ramp from southbound D.C. 295 to the 11th Street Bridge and on to the westbound Southeast-Southwest Freeway.

Instead of taking the Sousa Bridge and getting into a traffic mess around Barney Circle, a driver on westbound Pennsylvania Avenue can take the ramp to southbound D.C. 295, stay right for a short distance and then take that new ramp onto the 11th Street Bridge.

New Dulles highway ramp

The new ramp from the eastbound Dulles Airport Access Highway onto the Capital Beltway’s inner and outer loops has been open for a week, and I’d like to hear about your experiences around the Beltway interchange.

I’m very pleased that many drivers coming from the airport no longer need to cut all the way across the Dulles Toll Road traffic to reach Beltway ramps and hope that will ease congestion for everybody there.

My main concern is that it will take some time for drivers to get used to the new merge points where the ramps from the access highway and the toll road come together before entering the Beltway loops. This is more difficult for the airport traffic, because those drivers will have to look over their right shoulders as they blend into traffic. But toll road drivers also should look sharp for that new traffic merging from the left.

Where traffic is bad

Most commuters know when their own routes get bad, but it’s tough for them to tell whether they’d be any better or worse off on alternatives. I’ve been paying particular attention to the morning commuter routes to watch for the effects of the traffic increase that normally occurs each September.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that traditionally bad stretches of highway are getting more congested as they emerge from the summer lull: the north side of the Beltway near the I-95 interchange, I-395 approaching the Pentagon and the 14th Street Bridge, the George Washington Parkway between Route 123 and Rosslyn, the inner loop of the Beltway west of the Springfield interchange, Canal Road in Georgetown, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway between the Beltway and Route 50, Route 50 inside the Beltway and I-295 and the Suitland Parkway as they approach the Douglass and 11th Street bridges.

There is one stretch that generally looks better: the Beltway between Springfield and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. I think it’s likely that the opening of the THRU and LOCAL lanes has had a positive effect, particularly on the outer loop.

Add your nominations — negative or positive — to the comments section.

Northwest Branch bridge

This month’s new traffic pattern for the Northwest Branch bridge rehabilitation project on the Beltway in Silver Spring sends three lanes to the right of a work zone and one to the left. It’s easier to deal with than some of the other lane configurations during this lengthy project.

But it still requires caution. There are no shoulders, and the pavement is rough. Plus, this 55 mph work zone is frequented by one of Maryland’s mobile speed camera units.

E-ZPass/495 Express Lanes

This month, drivers who open a Virginia E-ZPass account can get two toll-free weeks of travel on the 495 Express Lanes early next year. This offer from the Express Lanes operator is part of a program to prepare drivers for the toll lane system on the west side of the Beltway.

To be eligible for the toll-free weeks, drivers must sign up for the incentive on the 495 Express Lanes Web site, www.495express lanes.com/offer, and also open a Virginia E-ZPass account. Drivers can get a transponder at the Virginia E-ZPass Web site, www.ezpass­va.­com. Transponders are also available at AAA Mid-Atlantic stores, some Wegmans in Northern Virginia, ­E-ZPass customer service centers and the Department of Motor Vehicles in Tysons Corner.

Drivers can find the complete rules on the Express Lanes Web site. The two weeks covered by the deal run Jan. 7-20.

Rest area closed

The Maryland House service center on Interstate 95 in Aberdeen, north of Baltimore, closed this past weekend for a lengthy renovation. Drivers heading north from the D.C. area now must continue on to Chesapeake House in North East to find the next available service center.

MARC Brunswick Line

My colleague Mark Berman reports that CSX is starting two weeks of track work on the Brunswick Line between Germantown and Brunswick. The work will occur between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Metro weekend work

The major project scheduled for this coming weekend on Metrorail will affect the Red Line: Free shuttle buses will replace trains between Grosvenor and Friendship Heights.

By  |  09:40 AM ET, 09/17/2012

Categories:  Commuting, Driving, Construction, Metro | Tags:  DC transportation, Virginia Department of Transportation, Maryland Department of Transportation, District Department of Transportation, Maryland Transportation Authority, 495 Express Lanes, Metro, WMATA

 
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