Guide for July 4 and weekend travel in D.C. area


Take Metro to see the 2013 version of this spectacle on the Mall, but be prepared for big crowds in the stations. (Tim Kelley)

The holiday will be hot but drier, followed by a weekend with chances of showers, the Capital Weather Gang says. The Nationals have an unusual start time of 11:05 a.m. at Nationals Park for their Independence Day game with the Milwaukee Brewers, followed by a weekend series with the San Diego Padres.

You won’t need to be in D.C. to enjoy festivals and fireworks, but the Mall is still the main event on July 4, and Metrorail is still the best way to get there and back.

Metro on July 4
About a half million people ride Metro on Independence Day, but the big push is for the 9:10 p.m. fireworks show.

  • Metrorail will open at 7 a.m. and close at midnight. Trains will operate on a Saturday schedule for most of the day, but will increase frequency to near rush-hour levels in the evening. There will be no Rush Plus service, as there normally is during peak hours on weekdays. Off-peak fares will be in effect all day.
  • Some trains will be eight cars long, so check the platform signs to know what’s coming and where to stand. (Often, the last two cars on an eight-car train are the least crowded. An eight-car train fills the entire platform.)
  • The Smithsonian station will be open all day but will be for entry only after the night’s fireworks.
  • Parking will be free at all Metrorail stations.
  • Bicycles and large coolers won’t be allowed on Metrorail because of concerns about crowding.
  • Metrobus will operate on a Saturday schedule.
  • MetroAccess will operate on a regular schedule, but all subscription trips are canceled.

Transit tips for visitors
This is the sort of thing people know if they’ve done the Mall once on July 4.

  • There’s a $1 surcharge on every trip you take using a paper fare card. Consider buying either a reusable plastic SmarTrip card and loading fare value onto that at your departure station or buying a one-day pass for $14. The pass is good for all your trips that day, and you won’t have to worry about loading the exact fare value onto your paper card or SmarTrip.
  • Avoid Federal Triangle or Smithsonian stations. They are the ones closest to the Mall, and everybody knows that, so they will be extremely crowded. Other stations are farther away but still are within walking distance.
  • Avoid transferring between train lines at Metro Center, Gallery Place or L’Enfant Plaza. It’s better to walk a few more blocks to reach the Mall than endure the crowds at the big stations.
  • If the kids are in a stroller, try not to crush people’s feet and don’t use the stroller to prop open train doors. Use elevators, not escalators.
  • When the platform lights flash, it means the train is coming. Stand back.
  • All trains, whether six-cars or eight-cars long, stop at the front of the platforms. When boarding the train, don’t pause and look around. There are plenty of people right behind you.
  • Step lively when you reach the end of an escalator so people don’t pile up behind you. In D.C., we stand to the right and walk on the left side of the escalators. (If you choose to do otherwise, a local will be quick to point out your error.)

Capital Bikeshare
Capital Bikeshare will set up a bike corral at its 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW station to help the large number of cyclists heading to events on and around the Mall on July 4. The corral will be available from noon till an hour after the fireworks end.

SoberRide
On Independence Day, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program’s SoberRide again will be in action. From 10 p.m. Thursday to 4 a.m. Friday, adults who are at risk of impaired driving in the D.C. area can call 800-200-TAXI for a no-cost taxi ride home, up to a fare value of $30.

Driving on July 4
Driving and parking around the Mall on July 4 is always very difficult. Watch out for the many “emergency no parking” signs. This is why I put the Metro information first. Here are some helpful travel tips collected by the District Department of Transportation.

The District’s reversible lane restrictions will be lifted Thursday.

No parking will be allowed between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. on:

  • Third Street from Independence Avenue to Constitution Avenue NW
  • Fourth Street from Independence Avenue to Constitution Avenue NW
  • Seventh Street from Independence Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • 14th Street from Independence Avenue to Constitution Avenue NW
  • 15th Street from Constitution Avenue to E Street NW
  • 17th Street from Constitution Avenue to E Street NW
  • Constitution Avenue NW, both sides, from Pennsylvania Avenue, west to 23rd Street
  • 10th Street NW between Constitution Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue
  • 14th Street NW between Constitution Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue
  • C Street NW from 17th Street to 18th Street (both sides)
  • Virginia Avenue NW from Constitution Avenue to 21st Street

These streets will be closed from about 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.:

  • Fourth Street from Independence Avenue SW to Constitution Avenue NW
  • Seventh Street from Independence Avenue SW to Constitution Avenue NW
  • 15th Street from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to Maine Avenue SW
  • 17th Street from Independence Avenue SW to E Street NW
  • 19th Street NW from C Street to Constitution Avenue
  • 20th Street NW from C Street to Constitution Avenue
  • 21st Street NW from C Street to Constitution Avenue
  • 22nd Street NW from C Street to Constitution Avenue
  • 23rd Street from Independence Avenue SW to C Street NW
  • Virginia Avenue NW from 18th Street to 20th Street
  • Constitution Avenue NW from 14th Street to 23rd Street
  • Independence Avenue SW from 14th Street to 23rd Street

These streets will be closed from about 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

  • 14th Street from Independence Avenue SW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW
  • Third Street from Maryland Avenue SW to Pennsylvania Avenue NW

These streets will be closed from about 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the Independence Day Parade:

  • Ninth Street Tunnel from Pennsylvania Avenue to the SE/SW Freeway
  • 12th Street Tunnel from the SE/SW Freeway to Pennsylvania Avenue

The 14th Street and Roosevelt bridges will remain open throughout the day. Don’t park on them. Anyone who tries can get ticketed and towed.

July 4th Parade
The parade begins at 11:45 a.m. The streets along the following route will be closed from 9 a.m. to  6 p.m.: Starting from Seventh Street and Constitution Avenue NW and ending at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Also closed: Seventh Street NW from Constitution Avenue NW to Independence Avenue SW.

Palisades Parade
The parade begins at Whitehaven Parkway and MacArthur Boulevard NW and proceeds northwest on MacArthur Boulevard, left on Edmunds Place NW, left on Sherrier Place NW and right into the Palisades Recreation Center.

Road closings begin at noon and end about 1:30 p.m. MacArthur Boulevard NW will be closed from Reservoir Road to Arizona Avenue for this event. There will be rolling street closures during the parade.

Capitol Hill Parade
The annual parade on Capitol Hill will form at Eighth and I (Eye) streets SE at 8 a.m. The parade will begin at 10 a.m. and end at noon, proceeding north on Eighth Street SE and west on D Street SE to the park at Seventh and D streets SE, where it will disband. There will be rolling street closings during the parade.

Operation Fast Forward
The District Department of Transportation will once again run “Operation Fast Forward” on July 4. The annual exercise allows participating agencies to manage the flow of traffic after the fireworks while they test emergency evacuation plans.

On four evacuation routes, traffic signals will be timed to provide longer green lights for traffic leaving D.C. This is scheduled to begin about a half hour after the end of the fireworks and continue for an hour.

The Operation Fast Forward emergency routes are:

  • Constitution Avenue NW from Pennsylvania Avenue to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge
  • Eastbound Pennsylvania Avenue from Third Street NW to Southern Avenue SE
  • Southbound 14th Street from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to C Street SW
  • Westbound K Street NW from 17th Street to the Whitehurst Freeway, Canal Road and the Chain Bridge

Metro this weekend
There is no scheduled work on the Red, Green or Yellow lines.

Orange Line. From 10 p.m. Friday till midnight Sunday, free shuttle buses will replace trains between Stadium-Armory and Cheverly. The Deanwood and Minnesota Avenue stations will be closed. Between Vienna and Stadium-Armory, and also between New Carrollton and Cheverly, trains will operate every 15 minutes, versus their usual 12-minute schedule on weekends.

Blue Line. From 10 p.m. Friday till midnight Sunday, shuttle buses will replace trains between Stadium-Armory and Benning Road. Between Largo Town Center and Benning Road, and also between Franconia-Springfield and Stadium-Armory, trains will operate every 15 minutes versus the usual 12-minute schedule for weekends.

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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Katherine Shaver · July 3, 2013