The weekend and beyond: Cherry blossom festival events begin, downtown run Sunday


So close: No, you won’t see the cherry blossoms like this around the Tidal Basin this weekend, but the peak bloom is coming soon. (Matt McClain — The Washington Post)

[This post has been updated.]

The main events of the 2013 National Cherry Blossom Festival begin this weekend. For many travelers in the D.C. region that means one big thing: Because the festival events bring large crowds and cause congestion, Metro has no weekend track work scheduled.

Saturday will be better than Sunday, when it may rain, the Capital Weather Gang says, but the two days will be on the chilly side for the first weekend of spring. This isn’t the weekend closest to the peak bloom for the blossoms around the Tidal Basin. The National Park Service now is forecasting a peak bloom for April 3 to 6.

On Saturday, D.C. United plays at 3:30 p.m. in RFK Stadium. Check this earlier posting for the new detour fans should follow to reach Lot 8 from the Southeast-Southwest Freeway. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus has many shows through the weekend at Verizon Center.

Here are some tips about the festival as well as some other travel issues coming up.

Cherry Blossom Festival

The opening ceremony, with its stage performances, will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW. All tickets have been given out. The nearest Metrorail stations are Metro Center and Federal Triangle.

Family Days on Saturday and Sunday include a variety of indoor and outdoor activities for children and adults. They are held at the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Nearest Metrorail stations: Gallery Place and Judiciary Square.

Festival travel tips

Riding Metrorail. The transit authority notes that ridership can spike by 15 percent during blossom season, and the weekend ridership can approach weekday levels. Metro will suspend its weekend track work program through Sunday, April 14. Despite the crowding, taking Metrorail will almost always be better than driving to downtown Washington because of the traffic congestion.

Walking. Smithsonian is the Metro station closest to the Tidal Basin, but it’s jammed at blossom time. If you’re up for a little more walking, get off at L’Enfant Plaza, Federal Triangle or Foggy Bottom. For a great walk in good weather, get off the Blue Line at Arlington Cemetery station and cross the Potomac River on the Memorial Bridge, past the Lincoln Memorial to the Tidal Basin.

Consult visitor maps on downtown streets or the ones posted by the National Park Service around the Mall. Bus shelters often have maps.

Biking. Capital Bikeshare has many bike stations along the Mall. See a map at www.capitalbikeshare.com. You can sign up to be a member for 24 hours, three days, a month or a year, then take a bike from any station. The first 30 minutes of each trip are free; riders pay an additional fee for every 30 minutes.

Riding around the Mall and East Potomac Park is delightful, but bike parking is limited. There is some parking near the Washington Monument and by the Jefferson Memorial.

Parking. Parking near the Tidal Basin during blossom time is extremely scarce, and traffic is heavy. Drivers can park at Hains Point and take a shuttle. Very limited parking for disabled people is available near the memorials.

5K Run/Walk for Colon Cancer Awareness

The eighth annual 5K Run/Walk for Colon Cancer Awareness starts at 9 a.m. Sunday. D.C. police announced these street closings around Freedom Plaza for 5 a.m. to 1 p.m.:  Pennsylvania Avenue NW from 14th Street to 12th Street, and 13th Street NW from Pennsylvania Avenue to E Street.

Streets along the route of the event will be closed from 8:30 to 11 a.m. This is the route:
Southeast on Pennsylvania Avenue NW from 12th to Third streets, south on Third Street to Independence Avenue SW, west on Independence to Fourth Street SW, south on Fourth Street to E Street SW, east on E Street to Third Street SW, north on Third Street to Maryland Avenue NW, northeast on Maryland Avenue NW to First Street NW, north on First Street to Constitution Avenue NW, west on Constitution to Pennsylvania Avenue NW, northwest on Pennsylvania to 12th Street NW. Download a map from this page on the sponsor’s Web site.

95 Express Lanes

The conversion of the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on Interstate 95 into high occupancy toll lanes continues this weekend and this coming week. Sunday through Wednesday nights, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., the Virginia Department of Transportation plans to close Russell Road in the Quantico area for the placement of steel on I-95 above Russell Road. Through traffic on Russell Road will be directed to a detour. One lane on I-95 North will be closed.

After the Russell Road operation is done, VDOT plans to close the Telegraph Road bridge over I-95 in that area for nine months. Workers will demolish and replace the old bridge.

Falls Church lane closing

Drivers will find the right northbound lane of North Washington Street closed at Jefferson Street in Falls Church through March 31 for work on storm sewers.

Takoma Park work

The Maryland State Highway Administration has begun a resurfacing project on East West Highway between Park and New Hampshire avenues in Takoma Park. The project, which will continue into the fall, is starting with work on the curb, gutters and sidewalk and then will move into road resurfacing during the spring.

Drivers may find lanes closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays.

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 | March 22, 2013