The weekend and beyond: Blossom Festival events, free ride on Beltway express lanes


No more waiting. This probably will be the peak weekend to see the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin. (Matt McClain — The Washington Post)

As the cherry blossoms reach full bloom around the Tidal Basin this weekend, the temperature will be springlike and the skies will mix sun and clouds, the Capital Weather Gang says. So watch for crowds throughout downtown.

There are several big events scheduled for the Cherry Blossom Festival this weekend, and International Pillow Fight Day is 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday on the Washington Monument grounds. The Wizards play in Verizon Center at 7 p.m. Saturday, and the Capitals are home at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Those are just some of the events likely to generate extra traffic and create delays this weekend. But there’s also a free event designed just for drivers: For the 48 hours of Saturday and Sunday, there will be no toll for using the 495 Express Lanes on the west side of the Capital Beltway in Virginia.

5K Fridays in Crystal City

Some streets in Crystal City will close each Friday through April 26 from 6:15 to 7:45 p.m. for the Crystal Run 5K series: the northbound lanes of Crystal Drive between 23rd and 15th streets and between 26th Street and Route 1, the northbound lanes of Potomac Avenue between Crystal Drive and Glebe Road, 33rd Street between Potomac Avenue and Crystal Drive, South Ball Street between 33rd and 35th streets. Access to and from the southbound lanes of Potomac Avenue between Crystal Drive and 33rd Street will be restricted by Arlington County police, who will allow crossing of the race route when they consider it safe.

I-95 delays near Quantico

Between 2 and 3 a.m. Saturday, the Virginia Department of Transportation plans to close Interstate 95 South at mile marker 147 near the Telegraph Road Bridge in Quantico. Workers will be removing steel girders from the bridge, which will be demolished and rebuilt as part of the 95 Express Lanes project.

One lane will close by 9 p.m. Friday, then a second lane will close by 11:30 p.m. During the one-hour full closing, all traffic will be detoured at Exit 148 (Russell Road)  to Route 1 South, to Garrisonville Road and back to I-95 South. This is likely to cause driving delays of up to 25 minutes on both I-95 South and Route 1.

All the lanes are scheduled to be open by 9 a.m. Saturday.

Drivers should anticipate some delays — five to eight minutes during rush hours, according to VDOT — because of the demolition and reconstruction of the bridge. The closing is scheduled to last nine months.

Meanwhile, drivers will be detoured via Route 1 or Russell Road. They may encounter temporary lane closings at off peak hours on I-95 near Telegraph Road. The workers are building the new express lanes in the middle of I-95, a project scheduled to be done in late 2014.

495 Express Lanes free ride

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday through Sunday, the message boards at the express lanes’ entry points will indicate the trip is free. The exact phasing will vary depending on the type and location of the sign, but the general idea is that they will communicate the limited time offer, say that no E-ZPass is required for this free weekend and remind drivers that the lanes are for two-axle vehicles and buses only. Pierce Coffee, the director of marketing at Transurban, gave several examples. She said that on a route that has several changeable signs, the first would flash two messages:

APRIL 6 AND 7

TRAVEL FREE ON

EXPRESS LANES

Followed by …

APRIL 6 AND 7

NO E-ZPASS

REQUIRED

At the second sign, just before access to the express lanes, the message will say:

APRIL 6 AND 7

ALL EXITS FREE

$0.00

See previous posting on the express lanes get-acquainted special.

Cherry Blossom Festival

This weekend will be a busy one for festival events.

Fireworks. On Saturday, the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival will draw crowds throughout the day for free music at venues around Seventh and Water streets SW. The fireworks go off after sunset on the Washington Channel. The nearest Metrorail stations are Waterfront and L’Enfant Plaza.

Cherry Blossom Run. This weekend, the festival and the blossoms are peaking. The Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run and 5K Run-Walk is from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday, starting and ending on the Washington Monument grounds. Nearest Metrorail stations: Smithsonian and Federal Triangle. The event, which draws about 15,000 preregistered runners, goes around the Tidal Basin and through East Potomac Park. Lincoln Memorial Circle and Independence Avenue near the Tidal Basin are good viewpoints.

Metrorail is opening at 5 a.m., providing two hours of extra service funded by the event’s organizers.

New Circulator hours

The D.C. Circulator’s Union Station-Navy Yard route and the Potomac Avenue-Skyland route have extend their service hours and days through Sept. 30. These bus routes offer a convenient option for baseball fans who don’t want to deal with crowds at the Green Line’s Navy Yard station near Nationals Park. (The Nats are away this weekend.)

The Union Station-Navy Yard route will run from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Service hours will be extended further for night games, and buses will be added on the route.

The Potomac Avenue-Skyland route, operating via Barracks Row, will run from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 am. to 9 p.m. Saturday.

 

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 · April 4, 2013