Memorial Day weekend traffic, transit forecast


Rolling Thunder roars into D.C. during the annual Memorial Day ride honoring veterans May 29, 2011. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

Whether your Memorial Day holiday plans involve a long weekend getaway or a trip to one of the remembrance events in the D.C. area, the skies will be in a cooperative mood. The Capital Weather Gang puts it this way: “Even clouds should be no more than adornment to a mainly sunny sky.”

On the ground — and under — there will be some disruptions for Metrorail reconstruction, but road work shouldn’t be a problem for weekend travelers. Traffic congestion, however, is another matter. Getaways that start before 9 a.m. Friday work best.

Here’s a roundup of traffic and transit concerns and special events through the Monday holiday.

Metrorail
This is the work zone schedule for 10 p.m. Friday through the rail system’s midnight closing Monday.

Red Line. Crews will be working on tracks, fences and light poles between NoMa-Gallaudet and Fort Totten. Through the three-day weekend, trains are scheduled to leave the ends of the line at Shady Grove and Glenmont every 20 minutes. But between Shady Grove and Noma-Gallaudet, more trains will be in service from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. In that zone, trains should reach platforms about every 10 minutes.

Orange Line. Crews will work on the tracks between East Falls Church and West Falls Church. Trains are scheduled to operate every 12 to 15 minutes all along the line.

Blue Line. The Franconia-Springfield station will be closed while crews work on a track switch replacement. Free shuttle buses will replace trains between Franconia-Springfield, at the south end of the line, and Van Dorn Street, one station to the north. Taking the buses will add about 10 minutes to normal travel time to and from Franconia-Springfield. Riders who normally would drive to Franconia-Springfield and park might prefer to go to Van Dorn Street or farther east to Huntington, at the end of the Yellow Line.

Green Line. Workers will continue building the test track for the new rail cars. Between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, trains between College Park and Greenbelt will operate every 24 minutes. Service will be normal Sunday and Monday. Travelers who normally would drive to the big parking lot at Greenbelt on Saturdays, could consider driving instead to the College Park station, or to New Carrollton on the Orange Line, which also is just off the Capital Beltway.

Metro on Memorial Day
On Monday, Metrorail will open at 7 a.m. and close at midnight. Trains will operate on a Sunday schedule, so service will be less frequent than on a normal weekday. Because it’s a holiday, the off-peak fares will be in effect, and parking will be free at the Metro lots and garages.

Road work
Highway departments in the D.C. region pull up their temporary work zones during the peak travel times Friday through Memorial Day Monday. But the long-term work zones, with their lane narrowings and shifts, rough pavement and shoulder closings remain in place. Maryland’s speed cameras in work zones also will be operating.

Maryland getaway traffic
The same Interstates that are congested every Friday are even more so the Friday before Memorial Day, David Buck, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, has told me. I-97 south toward Annapolis, Route 50 east toward the Bay Bridge, Route 404 toward Delaware, I-70 and I-68 toward Deep Creek and I-95 north toward Delaware tend to take the brunt of the extra traffic.

The heaviest travel times for Memorial Day traditionally are Friday from 1 to 8 p.m. and most of the day Monday, with the cookouts, parades and other outdoor activities, Buck noted. Thursday night’s rush hour also tends to be heavier than normal.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge
The best Bay Bridge travel times for summer weekend getaways are Thursdays before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m., Fridays before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m., Saturdays before 7 a.m. and after 5 p.m., Sundays before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m., and holiday Mondays before 10 a.m. and after 10 p.m. The regular car toll for the bridge now is $6, paid eastbound.

Virginia getaway traffic
The Virginia Department of Transportation looked at historic traffic data to see the times and places where congestion has been heaviest on Memorial Day weekends. While history doesn’t necessarily foretell the future, it’s useful to see the traditional hotspots statewide.

  • Interstate 95 southbound between Lorton and Fredericksburg on Friday afternoons through Saturday mornings.
  • Interstate 95 northbound between Interstate 295 in Richmond and Doswell, and between Thornburg and Dumfries, on Monday afternoons and evenings.
  • Interstate 64 eastbound between Interstate 664 and Willoughby Spit on Friday and Saturday afternoons.
  • Interstate 64 westbound between Granby Street and Willoughby Spit on Friday and Monday afternoons.
  • Interstate 81 northbound between Lexington and Fairfield on Monday afternoons.

Northern Virginia HOV lanes
This is the schedule for the holiday weekend.

  • Friday: Normal HOV-3 restrictions are in effect. Interstate 95/395 reversible lanes will be southbound starting at 1 p.m.
  • Saturday: I-95/395 reversible lanes remain southbound until 2 p.m. and switch to northbound by 4 p.m.
  • Sunday: I-95/395 reversible lanes remain northbound all day, but will be closed to regular traffic for the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally from 7:30 to 11 a.m.
  • Monday: HOV restrictions on Interstate 66 and I-95/395 are lifted. I-95/395 reversible lanes remain northbound all day.

Rolling Thunder
On Sunday morning, thousands of motorcyclists will gather at the Pentagon parking lots for a noon ride into the District. State and local police will escort the riders for the annual Rolling Thunder rally.

The Virginia Department of Transportation expects that about 2,000 cyclists will enter the northbound I-95 HOV lanes just north of Dale City, and another 2,000 will enter I-66 from Manassas and head east to the Pentagon. From 7 a.m. to about 4 p.m., Washington Boulevard in Arlington County will be closed from I-395 to the Memorial Bridge. Arlington National Cemetery will be accessible only from southbound George Washington Parkway or northbound Route 110.

At noon, the riders cross Arlington Memorial Bridge to 23rd Street NW, go north to Constitution Avenue NW, then east to Pennsylvania Avenue NW and then on to Third Street NW. They go south on Third Street to Independence Avenue NW, then west to West Basin Drive NW and southwest to Ohio Drive and Roosevelt Park, where they will park in the fields. Streets will close as the bikes pass by.

A program of speakers and musical entertainment begins at 1:30 p.m. on the south side of the Reflecting Pool near the Korean War Memorial. The events end around 5 p.m.

Memorial concerts
The National Memorial Day concert is set for 8 p.m. Sunday on the west lawn of the Capitol. The gates, at the southwest corner of the Capitol grounds, open for the concert at 5 p.m.

The streets close to the Capitol close for the event. Parking near the Capitol is very limited. The nearest Metrorail stations are Federal Center SW and Union Station.

The Marine Band plays at Wolf Trap at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Memorial Day events
The annual wreath-laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Arlington Cemetery. Parking is available at the Welcome Center garage. Arlington Cemetery is a stop on Metro’s Blue Line.

The National Memorial Day Parade is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Monday. The Constitution Avenue parade route starts at Seventh Street NW and ends at 17th Street.  The closest Metrorail stations to the parade route are Archives, on the Yellow and Green lines, and Smithsonian and Federal Triangle on the Blue and Orange lines.

Rockville’s Memorial Day parade is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday at North Washington Street and Middle Lane.

D.C. holiday rules
The District Department of Transportation lifts the reversible lane restrictions for the Memorial Day holiday Monday. Parking regulations will be enforced in the Nationals Park neighborhood. (The Nationals are away this weekend, but back for a 1:35 p.m. game at Nationals Park on Monday.) Elsewhere, the Department of Public Works will suspend enforcement of expired meters and the residential parking and rush hour lane restrictions.

See also

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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