The week ahead: June work zones, traffic hot spots, highway hearings


Congestion should decline in June, but travelers will encounter more work zones. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

Constitution Hall near the White House will be busy this week with high school graduations. Commuters may start to notice a decline in congestion as summer vacation season begins, but the real bonus won’t be apparent until July and August.

The Nationals are off Monday, but return to Nationals Park on Tuesday night and have home games the rest of the week. The road work season now affects many routes, though generally not at rush hours. Metro’s late-night work schedule affects all lines.

Local travelers need to watch for more storms through midday Monday, but the front should bring cooler and drier air for much of the work week, the Capital Weather Gang says. Here are some traffic and transit issues to watch for this week, plus some meetings on important transportation topics. (And join me at noon Monday for our weekly online discussion of local travel issues.)

HIGHLIGHTS: Metro delays | 11th Street Bridge | Va. highway meeting | ICC bus hearings | Moving D.C. | D.C. streetcars | Silver Line work | Phones in work zones

Worst morning traffic

These are the stretches of highway that tend to be the worst at the height of the morning commute: the Capital Beltway outer loop from College Park to Georgia Avenue, the junction of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, MD 50 and New York Avenue, Interstate 295 North and D.C. 295 South to the 11th Street Bridge over the Anacostia River, Interstate 66 East in Fair Oaks, the George Washington Parkway from VA 120 to Rosslyn, Interstate 395 near the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac.

I base those observations on the traffic maps and traffic cameras as they appear between 7:45 and 8:15 a.m. weekdays.

Metro weeknight work
Monday through Thursday nights, Metrorail riders will encounter some delays while trains share tracks around work zones, causing delays of about 10 minutes.

  • Red Line. After 8 p.m., trains will share a track between Dupont Circle and Van Ness. After 10 p.m. trains will share a track between Judiciary Square and Rhode Island Avenue.
  • Blue Line. After 8 p.m. trains will share tracks between Braddock Road and Van Dorn Street. The work doesn’t affect Yellow Line service.
  • Orange Line. After 8 p.m., trains share a track between East Falls Church and West Falls Church.
  • Blue, Orange lines. After 10 p.m., trains share a track between Federal Center SW and Eastern Market.
  • Green, Yellow lines: After 10 p.m., trains share a track between U Street and Georgia Avenue.

11th Street Bridge ramps

Two new ramps are open on the 11th Street Bridge’s local span, the southernmost of the three. One ramp provides access to northbound D.C. 295, the Anacostia Freeway. The other takes drivers from southbound D.C. 295 onto the local span. This will be helpful to travelers heading for Anacostia, Capitol Hill, the Navy Yard and Nationals Park.

Note that they connect with an intersection on the local span that is controlled by a traffic signal. To reach the ramp from southbound D.C. 295, head down the previously opened ramp, the one that takes traffic onto the inbound freeway span, but stay to the left and take the new exit that veer off to the left and leads to the local span.

Virginia highway meeting Monday

You know something’s amiss with a transportation project when people can’t figure out what to call it. That’s the case with the thing known sometimes as the Tri-County Parkway, sometimes as the Bi-County Parkway. (Or maybe it’s the outer beltway?)

Advocates in Prince William and Loudoun counties focus on its potential to spur economic development, so I’m uncertain about the “parkway” part.

Maybe the name and need will become clear at a Virginia Department of Transportation information meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas.

Many opponents fired their warning shots Wednesday night at a budget hearing held by Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board, which in mid-May delayed a vote on accepting a study for the 10-mile, north-south highway that would link Interstate 66 in Prince William with Route 50 in Loudoun.

Monday night’s session will include discussion of the proposed highway between Route 50 and Route 606 on the west side of Dulles International Airport. VDOT plans to make a presentation in the auditorium at 7 p.m., followed by a question and answer session from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

Intercounty Connector bus hearings

The Maryland Transit Administration has scheduled public hearings on its plan to eliminate three of the five bus routes on the Intercounty Connector as of Aug. 1. The routes proposed for cancellation are 202, 203 and 205. Route 202 operates between Gaithersburg and Fort Meade, Route 203 between Columbia and Bethesda, and Route 205 between College Park and Germantown.

That would leave Route 201 between Gaithersburg and BWI Marshall Airport and Route 204 between Frederick and College Park.

Of the routes designated for closing, Route 202 was designed to serve employees working at Fort Meade and the Department of Defense, Route 203 for employees of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Naval Medical Center, and Route 205 for Prince George’s County residents heading to jobs in the I-270 high tech corridor.

The hearings, all from 6 to 8 p.m. are scheduled for Tuesday at College Park City Hall, 4500 Knox Rd.; Wednesday at Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way, in Columbia, and Thursday at Bohrer Park at Summit Hall, 506 S. Frederick Ave., in Gaithersburg.

Moving D.C.

The District government will hold another set of workshops with the public this month to talk about the city’s transportation future, a continuing program called MoveDC. Planners have developed some scenarios for the future and will ask the public for feedback.

Here are the sessions this week: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Lamond-Riggs Library, 5401 South Dakota Ave. NE.; 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Anacostia Library, 1800 Good Hope Rd. SE.

The District Department of Transportation is the lead agency for this planning process. More details are available on the program’s Web site at www.wemovedc.org.

D.C. streetcar work

Construction of the D.C. streetcar line will restrict traffic on Benning Road NE between Oklahoma Avenue and the Metro overpass starting this week. Workers will install the foundations for the overhead lines to power the streetcars.

Work along the south side of Benning Road NE is scheduled to start Monday; later in the week, crews will start on the north side. The construction, which will last a few weeks, also will close the sidewalks periodically.

Metrobus X1, X2 and X3 stops on the south side of Benning Road just west of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail will be unavailable temporarily. Use the next stop on Benning Road, at 34th Street NE. Between Oklahoma Avenue NE and the Metro overpass, eastbound Benning Road traffic will be reduced to one lane. Left turns and U-turns will not be permitted in the work zone.

Fairfax Connector route

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has scheduled a public meeting to discuss Fairfax Connector’s proposed Route 432. The session is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Patrick Henry Library, 101 Maple Ave. East in Vienna. This new bus route is among those intended to start along with Metro’s Silver Line rail service.

Silver Line work

Travelers along the route of the Silver Line may occasionally see rail cars on the tracks. The third rail has been energized along parts of the line through Tysons and out along Route 267 to Wiehle Avenue, but the trains are out there just for equipment testing.

There’s still a lot of work to do before construction wraps up this fall and the Dulles Metrorail project turns the line over to Metro for further testing.

Work continues on the five new stations, but the biggest impact on drivers involves lane closings on routes 7 and 123, Tysons Boulevard, and nearby streets for paving, lane alignment and sidewalk installation.

George Washington Parkway
George Washington Parkway bridges at Dead Run, Pimmit Run, a section near the CIA and at some other points along the northern part of the parkway are undergoing maintenance. The parkway will be open to traffic at all times, but there will be single lane closings off-peak on weekdays and sometimes during daylight hours on weekends. Some steel plates will be put over work areas. There will be no night work.

Metro short-trip pass

Metro has stopped selling the paper version of the “short trip” pass, but riders can add the $35 seven-day pass to their SmarTrip cards.

The pass is valid for seven days from its first use, expiring at the end of the seventh day. It’s good for unlimited Metrorail trips up to $3.50 during peak periods, hence the name “short trip.” The rider can take a longer, costlier trip, but must pay the difference. At off-peak times, the pass is good for unlimited Metrorail trips of any value.

Phones in work zones

The longest and most active highway work zone in the D.C. region this summer will be the 29-mile stretch of Interstate 95/395 in Northern Virginia where the 95 Express Lanes are under construction. So it was fitting that safety advocates chose the Dale City rest area along I-95 this spring to launch their annual campaign against distracted driving in work zones.

The campaign is called “Orange Cones. No Phones.” But police, Virginia transportation officials and others concerned with traffic safety noted that it doesn’t necessarily take a phone to distract a driver. The summer driving season brings out the map twisters and radio fiddlers.

It may help that as of July 1, Virginia police can pull over a driver for texting. But “fear of a fine shouldn’t be the motivating factor” in avoiding the behavior, said state police Capt. Michael Spivey, commander of the Fairfax Division.

There are 1,500 people working along the I-95/395 construction zone. If that isn’t enough for drivers to worry about, perhaps this is: The people most likely to be injured or killed in work zones are motorists.

Roadside mowing

The Virginia Department of Transportation also is asking drivers to watch out for crews mowing grass, pruning trees, cutting brush and removing litter.

Most state roads in Northern Virginia will see up to three cycles of mowing through the fall, but there may be more where safety issues and weather patterns require, VDOT said.

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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Lori Aratani · May 31, 2013