The week before Christmas will be mild, though a bit rainy later Monday and on Thursday, the Capital Weather Gang says. For those planning a holiday getaway — or last minute shopping — the weekend travel outlook is good for the D.C. area.
While work continues on many road and transit projects, the biggest change this week is a good one for commuters.
11th Street Bridge
Commuters went decades without a smooth freeway connection over the Anacostia River, but as the rebuilding of the 11th Street Bridge advanced this year, the completion of those connections became an obsession with many drivers.
One of the links opened over the summer, allowing drivers to move easily from southbound D.C. 295 onto the 11th Street Bridge and across to the Southeast-Southwest Freeway.
The outbound route, from the bridge to northbound D.C. 295, could open in the middle of this week, according to the District Department of Transportation. The target is Wednesday.
Commuters will find this a far better option than using Pennsylvania Avenue and the Sousa Bridge to make a left turn onto D.C. 295.
Metro late-night maintenance
Monday through Thursday nights, Metrorail plans maintenance on the Red and Blue lines.
Red Line: From 8 p.m. till the rail system’s midnight closing, trains will share a track between Friendship Heights and Medical Center. From 10 p.m. until closing, trains will share a track between Takoma and Silver Spring. The work will result in train delays of about five minutes, Metro said.
Blue Line: From 8 p.m. till closing, trains will share a track between Franconia-Springfield and Van Dorn Street. Delays should be about five minutes. From 10 p.m. till closing, they will share a track between Stadium-Armory and Addison Road, resulting in delays of about 10 minutes.
From 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, watch for road work at the Capital Beltway’s Telegraph Road interchange, part of the final construction on the Wilson Bridge project.
The right lane of the outer loop will be closed from the Eisenhower Connector to the Telegraph Road interchange. The right lane of the inner loop’s LOCAL lanes will be closed between Route 1 and Telegraph Road. The ramp from the inner loop to Telegraph Road South will be closed. Drivers should continue on the inner loop to the Eisenhower Connector to Eisenhower Avenue East to Mill Road to Telegraph Road South.
95 Express Lanes work
This will be an active week for midday construction along I-95 south of D.C., where the HOV lanes are being converted into high-occupancy toll lanes. Here’s what’s scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9:30 a.m. to noon Friday.
- I-95/395 reversible HOV lanes from I-495 to Cardinal Dr. overpass: Single lane closed for groundwork, erosion and sediment control.
- I-95 north and south between Russell Road underpass to Exit 158, Prince William County Parkway: Single lane closed for ground work and barrier movement.
- I-395 North between the Beltway and Exit 4 for Seminary Road: Single lane closed for survey and field work, and for clearing.
- Stevenson Avenue at Stulz Road: Right lane closed for construction entrance work.
- Franconia Road (Route 644) west to I-95 north – Single right lane of ramp closed for clearing.
- Loisdale Road north and south from Franconia Springfield Pkwy. (Route 289) to Constance Avenue: Single lane closed for ground work.
- Joplin Road underpass at I-95 overpass: Left lane closed for pier excavation.
Rock Creek Parkway
Rehabilitation work on the Rock Creek Parkway continues at Waterside Drive. The southbound right curb lane is closed approaching Waterside Drive. Lane adjustments are in effect during rush hours, the National Park Service said. Drivers are allowed to use one northbound lane to go south during the morning rush hour until 9:15 a.m. A minimum of one lane will remain open in the southbound lanes at all times.
All traffic will use the left curb lane approaching Waterside Drive on southbound Rock Creek Parkway. The park service said this traffic pattern will be in place till mid-February.
Aldie traffic calming
The Virginia Department of Transportation has completed a traffic-calming project along Route 50 in Aldie. In recent years, this semirural area on the east side of the D.C. region has endured heavier and faster-moving traffic.
The project is intended to restore the feel of a village street on this part of Route 50. As traffic approaches Aldie, the speed limit drops to 25 mph. But the program uses a variety of techniques, including landscaping, raised sidewalks and varied paving materials to get drivers to slow down and to protect pedestrians.
This is the latest in a series of traffic-calming projects in Loudoun and Fauquier counties. Others have been completed in Upperville and Gilberts Corner.
Given the number of warning signs, it’s difficult to see how a driver who doesn’t have an
E-ZPass could wind up in the 495 Express Lanes, but some do. To minimize the resulting fee and hassle, a driver should go to the express lanes Web site, www.495expresslanes.com.
Click on the button that says “Missed a Toll?” and fill out the form to pay the toll, plus a $1.50 administrative fee. A driver who doesn’t do that within five days of missing the toll will get an invoice in the mail. The administrative fee on the invoice will be $12.50. If that’s not paid within 30 days, a second invoice will increase the administrative fee to $25.
A driver with a question about the invoice should call 855-495-9777 or e-mail email@example.com.
Refusing to pay the toll or falsely claiming carpool status for a free ride can result in these civil penalties: $50 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense, $500 for a third offense within two years of the second offense and $1,000 for a fourth offense within three years of the second offense.
The annual holiday SoberRide program, offered by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, operates 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night through Jan. 1. The program is invaluable in helping to keep the roads safe by giving adults who have had too much to drink an alternative to driving home.
During SoberRide’s hours of operation, D.C. area residents can call the toll-free number, 800-200-TAXI (8294), and get a ride home in a cab. It’s free for the first $30 of the ride.
The National Park Service announced that the rock stabilization project along the northbound side of the George Washington Parkway in Rosslyn is done. All lanes are open between the Key Bridge and Spout Run.
MARC inauguration tickets
MARC train tickets to President Obama’s second inauguration are on sale online at mta.maryland.gov or at the MTA Transit Store at 6 St. Paul St., Baltimore. Each round-trip ticket costs $25. The limit per transaction is 20 tickets.
Inauguration Day is Jan. 21, also the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. MARC trains, which would normally not run on this holiday, will operate reserved trains on special schedules. Trains will run on the Penn and Brunswick lines, but not on the Camden. View the schedule here.
The Maryland Transit Administration will not run any commuter buses on Inauguration Day. Virginia Railway Express is not planning to operate on Inauguration Day, according to a spokesman.
The December holidays don’t have the same intense getaway peaks as Thanksgiving, but there still will be plenty of travelers on the roads, in airport parking areas and in train and bus depots.
“The year-end holiday season remains the least volatile of all travel holidays as Americans will not let economic conditions or high gas prices dictate if they go home for the holidays or kick off the New Year with a vacation,” AAA President and chief executive Robert Darbelnet said in announcing the holiday travel forecast.
The number of air travelers is likely to increase, but so is the number of drivers, and nine out of 10 getaways nationwide are made in cars. AAA estimates the national average price of gasoline will drop slowly through the end of the year and average $3.20 to $3.40 per gallon by New Year’s Day. Average gas prices dropped about 50 cents a gallon from September through early December, AAA said, but they remain at record highs for this time of year.
Christmas and New Year’s Day are on Tuesdays this year, so count on some people creating four-day weekends. But that doesn’t mean we’ll re-create the intensity of the Thanksgiving getaway scene. For example, many young families will spend Christmas Day at home before heading off on trips later in the week.
While Friday may not be the equivalent of Thanksgiving eve, the days right before Christmas offer special travel challenges, because they blend last-minute shoppers, regular commuters and people heading out of town. “That makes for a very uncomfortable mix on our roads,” said Mahlon G. “Lon” Anderson of AAA Mid-Atlantic. “They don’t handle one function very well, much less a mix of all three.”
David Buck, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, noted an extra difficulty factor for travelers: They will be sharing the road with drivers coming from holiday parties. “The bigger concern over holidays like this tends to be impaired driving crashes,” he said.
Many drivers heading south are interested in the rules for Virginia’s High Occupancy Vehicle lanes. Normal HOV rules will be in effect Dec. 24 and Dec. 31, the Virginia Department of Transportation said.
These restrictions are lifted on Interstates 95, 395 and 66 on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day before returning the day after each holiday.
On Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, the I-95/I-395 reversible lanes will be southbound until midnight, then will switch to northbound by 2 o’clock the following morning.
For those heading up I-95, remember that the Maryland House service center in Aberdeen is closed for renovations, but the Chesapeake House 14 miles beyond, in North East, Md., remains open.