Warm weather, Dupont Circle exit reopened, 11 Street Bridge new ramp: The week ahead

October 22, 2012
11th Street Bridge
A paving crew works on an approach to the Anacostia River’s 11th Street Bridge, where the District continues to open new ramps. (Robert Thomson – The Washington Post)

This should be an unusually fine fall week for commuters who stand on outdoor Metro platforms, wait at bus stops, walk to work or bike. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts generally clear skies and warm temperatures that could exceed 80 degrees at mid-week.

It’s also great weather for all the big road work projects that can slow drivers near the 11th Street and Sousa bridges in the District, and along the Northwest Branch bridge, 495 Express Lanes and Telegraph Road interchange projects on the Capital Beltway. (And I won’t forget a special mention for the George Washington Parkway project in Rosslyn.)

Dupont Circle exit reopened

Red Line commuters have something Monday they haven’t had for eight and a half months: A way out on the south side at Dupont Circle. Metro reopened the south exit on Sunday after replacing the three big escalators between 19th Street NW and the mezzanine.

Metro officials, who have taken a lot of heat from riders over the rail system’s escalators, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the reopening at Dupont Circle. “Escalator availability today is above 90 percent, an increase of 8 percent over last year,” Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said in a statement.

Despite the poor performance of Metro escalators in recent years, the transit authority has usually chosen to try repairs rather than replacements. But Sarles noted that Metro’s new long-term plan calls for replacing 94 escalators over the next seven years.

The reopening at Dupont Circle puts many riders within closer range of their work places, and means that some will go back to using Dupont Circle station rather than nearby Farragut North. It should also mean there will be fewer times when service is disrupted at Dupont Circle. Under the emergency plan for the escalator replacement, Metro sometimes shut off access to the north entrance to avoid potentially dangerous crowding within the station.

New ramp at 11th Street Bridge

The District Department of Transportation has opened the new outbound ramp from the local span of the 11th Street Bridge to southbound I-295. Several weeks ago, DDOT opened the inbound ramp, leading from northbound I-295 onto the local span.

The local span is the southernmost of the three new spans. These new ramps should be particularly helpful to drivers trying to make connections to the neighborhoods on either side of the Anacostia River, particularly to Capitol Hill, the Navy Yard and Anacostia.

While this is going to be a big improvement, it usually takes drivers a few weeks to adjust to new ramps and traffic signals, so use extra caution around the 11th Street Bridge.

I-95 express lanes

Construction of the express lanes to replace the I-95 HOV lanes will permanently close a ramp onto southbound I-95 in Newington in the coming week. The closing will clear room to build a reversible flyover ramp for the express lanes, scheduled to open late in 2014.

The ramp that is closing brings traffic from Alban Road, Boudinot Drive and Backlick Road to I-95 South near the Fairfax County Parkway. (Motorists on Backlick Road who are used to making a left turn onto the southbound ramp won’t be able to do that anymore.)

Traffic will be directed into a pretzel-shaped detour that includes Fullerton Road and Boudinot Drive, then onto the parkway and right to southbound I-95.

Baltimore-Washington Parkway

The Maryland State Highway Administration ran into a problem over the weekend with its bridge replacement project on the BW Parkway near BWI Marshall Airport. This week, all lanes are open at the West Nursery Road bridge. But the old bridge had to be put back in place temporarily after workers found they couldn’t swap it out for the new one in the way they had planned.

Instead, project managers had to bring in four construction cranes on Saturday to restore the bridge deck over the parkway’s northbound lanes. SHA said that inspectors determined the span was safe, and it was reopened to traffic.

But now SHA and the contractor have to come up with a new plan and a new schedule for replacing the bridge, a project originally scheduled for completion this coming weekend.

George Washington Parkway

The rock stabilization project along the northbound side of the George Washington Parkway in Rosslyn continues to cause traffic congestion because the left lane between Key Bridge and Spout Run is closed for the duration of the work, which the National Park Service says will continue into December. Additional lane closings reduce the number of travel lanes to one between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. weekdays.

Arlington Memorial Bridge

The National Park Service is continuing a repair project on the Arlington Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River, and this can cause traffic delays. From 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. weekdays, drivers may encounter lane closings in both directions.

Glebe Road/Route 50

The Virginia Department of Transportation finished a project that replaced the Glebe Road bridge at Route 50 in Arlington County. The new span is 27 feet wider than the old bridge.

Improvements include a northbound left-turn lane to Route 50, which planners hope will make trips easier for buses. For right turns from Route 50 to Glebe Road, the sight lines should be better. And there’s now a 17-foot path for bikers and walkers on one side of the road and an 11-foot sidewalk on the other.

Bus terminal moved

During last Monday’s online discussion, a reader wanted to remind everyone that the Greyhound Bus Terminal on First Street NE has shut down.

The reader’s concern focused on Metro Red Line riders, who might still be getting off at the NoMa-Gallaudet U station, which was the closest to the old bus terminal, only to find that they had to get back aboard the train and go one stop to nearby Union Station, where the intercity buses now are relocated.

Times will return

Another participant in the chat asked about those new screens appearing at Metro station kiosks where the time used to be displayed.

As those screens become active over the next several months, they’ll show the time — which helps the riders waiting for off-peak fares to kick in before they go through the fare gates — but they’ll also display Metrorail status reports.

It should help the many riders who have complained about a lack of actionable information before they enter the system. Especially frustrating are the times when they figure out there’s a delay only moments after paying the fare.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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Mark Berman · October 22, 2012