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Dr. Gridlock
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Posted at 11:59 AM ET, 05/24/2012

Memorial Day and beyond: Thunder in skies, Rolling Thunder on D.C. roads

This weekend may be the unofficial start of summer, but the Capital Weather Gang gives it the official rating of “hot.” The high temperatures could be in the 90s through Memorial Day, with chances of thunder. “Beaches slightly cooler,” the gang said. That always sounds so nice.

Use this link to see our summer getaway guide to driving routes out of the D.C. region.

But here’s the bottom line: There are no undiscovered shortcuts, only alternative routes. So your departure time counts at least as much as which set of roads you pick. Traffic leaving the D.C. area is likely to be heavy on Thursday evening and Friday afternoon and evening. Traffic also is heavy most of the day on Monday. While many are returning from long-distance trips, others who stayed local are heading to holiday cookouts, parades and outdoor activities.

For those staying local, I’ve got some advice on the traffic and transit issues you’ll face on your way to holiday weekend events.

Road work

This is one thing you should not have to worry about this weekend, whether you’re staying local or driving long distance. Most highway departments will pull up their temporary work zones during the peak travel times Friday through Memorial Day Monday. But the long-term work zones, with their lane narrowings and shifts, rough pavement and shoulder closings remain in place. Maryland’s speed cameras in work zones also will be operating.

Metro weekend delays

The Metro work zones for rehabilitation projects will be set up at 10 p.m. Friday and remain through the Metrorail’s midnight closing on Monday, Memorial Day.

Green Line: Buses will replace trains between Greenbelt and Fort Totten during a switch replacement project. The shuttle bus system works fairly well during scheduled disruptions, but the buses still must drive through local streets while picking up and discharging passengers at other stations.

Metro will operate express and local shuttles. The local will stop at all stations between Greenbelt and Fort Totten. A rider who did the entire trip this way probably would add about 50 minutes to normal travel time, Metro estimated. An express bus, traveling between Greenbelt and Fort Totten without stops, probably will add about half an hour to normal travel time.

The rest of the Green Line will be on its normal weekend schedule.

Yellow Line: No work is scheduled, but because of the work on the Green Line, Yellow Line trains will operate only as far north as Mount Vernon Square. (On weekends, they normally would continue on to Fort Totten.) Yellow Line riders who want to continue north of Mount Vernon Square will need to switch to the Green Line trains, which arrive on the same platform.

Red Line: Trains will share a track between Forest Glen and Takoma as crews work on platforms and install fiber optic cable. I’m glad to see the work on the platforms. A new type of tile is being installed, and the bumpy tiles near the platform edges are being replaced.

Trains are scheduled to leave the ends of the line every 20 minutes. Metro said riders should add about 10 minutes to normal weekend travel times, though many weekend riders find their delays are longer than that.

From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., additional trains will operate between Shady Grove and New York Avenue. In that zone, trains should arrive about every 10 minutes, Metro said.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge

The best Bay Bridge travel times for summer weekend getaways are Thursdays before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m., Fridays before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m., Saturdays before 7 a.m. and after 5 p.m., Sundays before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m., and holiday Mondays before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m. The regular car toll for the bridge now is $4, paid eastbound.

Memorial Day weekend events

Saturday parade: The United House of Prayer for All People plans to hold its Memorial Day parade from 10 a.m. to about 3 p.m. Saturday. It will begin at Sixth and M streets NW and follow this route: North on Sixth Street to S Street, west on S Street to 13th Street, south on 13th Street to Logan Circle, southwest around Logan Circle to P Street, east on P Street to Seventh Street, south on Seventh Street to M Street, east on M Street back to Sixth Street.


Rolling Thunder roars into Washington, D.C., along the Memorial Bridge from Virginia during their annual Memorial Day ride honoring veterans in Washington, D.C., on May 29, 2011. (Nikki Kahn - The Washington Post)
Rolling Thunder: The Rolling Thunder motorcycle group plans tributes to veterans all weekend in the D.C. area. But here are some key elements of the schedule.

The group figures on arriving at the Maryland House rest stop on southbound Interstate 95 at about 1 p.m. Friday and arriving at accommodations in Crystal City about 3 p.m.

On Sunday, the big day for Rolling Thunder, participants plan to gather at the North Pentagon Parking Lot from 7 a.m. to noon. Then they leave for D.C. The I-95/395 HOV lanes will be closed to regular traffic from 7:30 to 11 a.m. for the rally riders.

This is the route into D.C.: The riders cross Arlington Memorial Bridge to 23rd Street NW, go north to Constitution Avenue NW, then east to Pennsylvania Avenue NW and then on to Third Street NW. They go south on Third Street to Independence Avenue NW, then west to West Basin Drive NW and southwest to Ohio Drive and Roosevelt Park, where they will park in the fields.

A program of speakers and musical entertainment begins at 1:30 p.m. on the south side of the Reflecting Pool near the Korean War Memorial. The events will end around 5 p.m.

National parade: The National Memorial Day Parade, with a special tribute to veterans of the Iraq war, is scheduled for 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. The Constitution Avenue NW parade route will be closed from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The parade starts at Seventh Street and Madison Drive NW and ends at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue. Also closed will be Seventh Street from Constitution Avenue to Independence Avenue NW.

The closest Metrorail stations are Archives, on the Yellow and Green lines, and Smithsonian and Federal Triangle on the Blue and Orange lines. Be sure to note Metro’s weekend work schedule above and the Monday service plan below.

Metro’s holiday schedule

On the Monday holiday, Metrorail will open at 7 a.m. and close at midnight. Trains will operate on a Sunday schedule, and off-peak fares will be in effect. Parking is free at the Metro lots and garages.

Metrobuses will operate on a Sunday schedule. MetroAccess subscription trips are not in effect on Monday. People who qualify for the paratransit service and want to make trips this Monday need to make separate reservations.

Virginia HOV lanes

The high-occupancy vehicle restrictions on Interstates 66 and 95/395 will be lifted on Monday. The I-95/395 lanes will be southbound from 1 p.m. Friday until 2 p.m. Saturday, and northbound from 4 p.m. Saturday through the rest of the holiday weekend. Note the restriction on Sunday morning for the Rolling Thunder riders.

The 511

Both Maryland and Virginia use 511 communications systems to for information about routes and travel conditions. You can dial 511 from inside either state to get information. Maryland information is available online at www.md511.org. The state provides a Twitter feed at www.md511.org/TwitterRegions.aspx.

For Virginia information on the Web, use www.511Virginia.org.

The Virginia Twitter is https://twitter.com/#!/va511travel.

Virginia just upgraded its 511 to improve the phone system, provide live video of traffic conditions and make available free apps for Android and iPhone. Reach the Beach information shows the fastest routes to Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks Expressway.

These are very useful services. Sometimes I worry they can be so useful they lead to distracted driving. Either have your passengers check the information, or pull over to a safe place.

By  |  11:59 AM ET, 05/24/2012

Categories:  Events, Getaways, Metro, Weekend Work | Tags:  DC transportation, Maryland Department of Transportation, Virginia Department of Transportation, Metro, WMATA, Summer getaways

 
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