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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 09:54 AM ET, 03/23/2012

The weekend and beyond, at cherry blossom time


Visitors stroll along the Tidal Basin this week. The National Park Service said the cherry blossoms peaked on Tuesday. (Charles Dharapak - AP)
The weather won’t be the best, but this will still be a big weekend for visits to the Tidal Basin’s cherry blossoms and other tourist sites on the National Mall.

The National Park Service says the bloom peaked on Tuesday.

Anyone who can sneak away from work today for a visit will likely find the Tidal Basin more enjoyable than it will be over the weekend. The Capital Weather Gang says Friday’s temperature could reach 80 degrees. But Saturday will be rainy and much cooler. Sunday won’t be as wet, but the temperature still will be in the 60s.

Metro this weekend

There’s no track work scheduled, because of the Cherry Blossom Festival and resulting crowds on transit. Ridership can increase by 15 percent during festivals, and some weekend trains can be as crowded as weekday rush-hours. Metro says it will operate more eight-car trains this weekend.

Parking is free on weekends at the lots and garages operated by Metro. That’s a lot better than trying to find a space near the Tidal Basin.

I got a message this morning from a traveler who got up extra early and arrived downtown before sunrise, hoping to park and see the blossoms, but found that both the parking lot near the paddle boat rental and the one at the Jefferson Memorial were closed.

He then tried Parking Lot A behind the memorial, but that was full. He then tried to find parking along Ohio Drive, but all the spaces were taken.

Blossom festival begins

The official opening ceremony is scheduled for 5 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Washington Convention Center. The free event is open to 6,000 people, but online registration is required. The nearest Metrorail station is Mount Vernon Square, on the Green and Yellow lines.

Mall/Tidal Basin

The Tourmobile service isn’t operating. A new bus service by ANC Tours has begun running on a loop connecting the Union Station bus garage with the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the Smithsonian Metro station for $5 per boarding. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Smithsonian is the Metro station closest to the Tidal Basin, but it’s jammed at blossom time. If that’s bothersome, and you’re up for a little more walking, get off at L’Enfant Plaza, Federal Triangle or Foggy Bottom. Only slightly more ambitious: Get off the Blue Line at Arlington Cemetery station and walk over the Potomac River on the Memorial Bridge past the Lincoln Memorial to the Tidal Basin.

The Capital Bikeshare program has opened two bike stations on the Mall, an advantage to people enjoying the Cherry Blossom Festival.The new stations are at Ohio Drive and West Basin Drive SW, near the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and on Jefferson Drive between 14th and 15th streets SW, near the Washington Monument.

While these are right on the Mall, there also are many bike stations throughout downtown that can be useful for visiting festival sites. See a map of Capital Bikeshare stations in D.C. and Arlington.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service is making additional bike parking available between 15th and 14th streets SW near the Washington Monument, and at the Jefferson Memorial. Bring a bike lock.

For the blossom festival, the park service has closed the parking lot at 1501 Maine Ave. SW, by the Tidal Basin. It’s scheduled to reopen April 19.

Parking anywhere near the Tidal Basin also is very difficult. There’s the lot at Hains Point, south of the Tidal Basin. From Saturday through April 15, people can take a shuttle from there to the basin, the National Park Service says. The shuttle costs $1 per person. (The parking at Hains Point is free, and many people know that, so it fills up early.)

Once you get to the Tidal Basin: The path is really, really crowded while the blossoms are out. Dawn and dusk are the best times. If you can’t make it then, be patient, and be careful. There’s no railing between the path and the basin.

Parking for disabled people

It’s very difficult for people with disabilities to park near the Tidal Basin. First, it’s hard for anybody to get through that traffic congestion during the height of blossom season. Second, while there is some disability parking near the monuments, including the Martin Luther King Jr. and Roosevelt memorials — it’s extremely limited, and nobody should count on finding a space there.

On Tuesday, the D.C. Council passed emergency legislation that has suspended the city’s red top parking meter program for people with disabilities.

This is bound to create confusion, but here’s the bottom line: People with valid disability placards or plates may park at the red tops or any other D.C. meter for free and stay for twice the time normally allowed in that area. All others must pay and observe the rules on hours.

The District continues to recognize placards and plates issued by other jurisdictions.

The council’s emergency legislation will be in effect for 90 days.

Arlington Boulevard interchanges

Westbound Arlington Boulevard (Route 50) is scheduled to close between Courthouse Road and 10th Street next weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 p.m. Sunday while workers demolish the 10th Street bridge over westbound Route 50. Avoid it, or try 10th Street to Washington Boulevard and back to Arlington Boulevard as a detour.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has imposed several other closings that are part of this project, which involves rebuilding the interchanges at Courthouse Road and 10th Street. These closings will continue till the project is near completion in fall 2013.

The bridge from southbound 10th Street to eastbound Arlington Boulevard is closed. Drivers can use Washington Boulevard to North Pershing Drive back to Arlington Boulevard as a detour. The ramp from westbound Arlington Boulevard to North Fairfax Drive between Courthouse Road and 10th Street is also closed. Use 10th Street as a detour.

Finally, Fairfax Drive between Scott Street and Courthouse Road closed. Scott, Taft and Troy streets will remain open. Drivers won’t be able to make left turns from Courthouse Road to Fairfax Drive.

D.C. bridge repairs

Through the end of April, the District Department of Transportation will be working on the Michigan Avenue bridge over Park Place NW, the South Capitol Street Bridge over Suitland Parkway and the Southern Avenue bridge over Suitland Parkway.

The work, to be done between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., will require single-lane closings.

While a single lane is closed on the Michigan Avenue bridge, a single lane also will be closed on Park Place under the bridge.

While a single lane is closed on the South Capitol Street Bridge, a single lane also will be closed on Suitland Parkway under the bridge.

Maryland bridge inspection

The Maryland State Highway Administration will be doing a routine inspection of the bridge that takes the Capital Beltway’s outer loop over the Interstate 270 spur in Montgomery County. This will require the closing of two lanes on the inner loop from 4:30 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

Anacostia Drive closing

The National Park Service plans to close Anacostia Drive SE between Good Hope Road SE and the South Capitol Street off-ramps from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Friday nights. Workers will be repaving Anacostia Drive.

By  |  09:54 AM ET, 03/23/2012

Categories:  Weekend Work, Events, Metro, Biking, Parking, Driving | Tags:  DC transportation, Virginia Department of Transportation, Cherry Blossom Festival

 
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