Dr. Gridlock’s traffic, transit tips: Navigating virtual tunnels and HOT lanes

Robert Thomson
Columnist February 16, 2013
Virtual tunnels

The Metro staff’s ideas about building pedestrian tunnels between some stations are good ones, though expensive. During my online discussion Monday, I questioned whether anyone now commuting would still be commuting when such costly tunnels finally open.

A virtual tunnel known as the Farragut Crossing links the Farragut West station on the Orange and Blue lines with the nearby Farragut North station on the Red Line. A rider with a SmarTrip card gets a free transfer, but has to go up to street level.

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. View Archive

The Farragut Crossing is being used by about 600 weekday riders and 100 on weekend days, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.

The staff also has proposed building a real tunnel to link the Metro Center and Gallery Place transfer stations. Today, that has no virtual version. The geography of the lines made the Farragut Crossing a higher priority for the SmarTrip reprogramming, Stessel said. The biggest beneficiaries of a Metro Center-Gallery Place crossing would be those riding north of Gallery Place or west of Metro Center. Others can make an easier transfer within the L’Enfant Plaza station.

HOT lanes access

The most frequently asked questions about the 495 Express Lanes have to do with access. A solo traveler who uses I-66 East during the morning rush, when the HOV left-lane rules are in effect, asked if he could get into the left lane to enter the northbound high-occupancy toll lanes at the Capital Beltway.

Yes. Drivers heading for the express lanes can get into that left lane on I-66 East about a mile before the Beltway. In fact, they should see a white sign overhead that says “E-ZPass Express allowed in left lane starting here.”

Drivers who look at the HOT lanes Web site, at www.495expresslanes.com, can see videos showing the approaches to the lanes’ access points.

Presidents’ Day weekend

The long holiday weekend means that Metrorail has a long schedule for track work, continuing through the train system’s midnight closing Monday. The Orange Line is not running between Stadium-Armory and Cheverly. The Blue Line is not running between Stadium-Armory and Largo Town Center. Free shuttle buses bridge the gaps in rail service. On the Red Line, trains are sharing a track between Rhode Island Avenue and Takoma.

All of this is disruptive, but the greatest difficulty for riders is likely to come on Monday. Yes, it’s a federal holiday, but many private employees will be at work.

Metro on Monday

Metrorail will open at 5 a.m. and close at midnight, as on a weekday, but the level of service will be about what riders would see on a Saturday. Metrobus will operate on a “Saturday supplemental schedule,” something Metro goes to on holidays when more people are likely to be working. It’s best to check the timetables on Metro’s Web site, at www.
wmata.com
.

Bus route tip

During Wednesday’s Metrorail disruption at Gallery Place, an online commenter who uses the handle bretton3021 offered a tip for Blue and Yellow Line riders heading into the District from Northern Virginia:

If you can get as far as the Pentagon station during a rail service disruption, transfer to the 7Y or 16X Metrobuses into the District. The 7Y goes across Arlington Memorial Bridge and along Constitution from 23rd Street to 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The 16X, a limted stop service, crosses the 14th Street Bridge to Independence Avenue then turns on Seventh Street and continues to Pennsylvania Avenue and 11th Street NW.

Memorial Bridge

The Federal Highway Administration is about to start an extensive inspection of the Memorial Bridge deck. The inspection is scheduled to begin this coming week and could continue until March 5. Drivers may encounter lane closings from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more transportation news, go to washingtonpost.com/transportation.

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