Here are some things — including good things — to be aware of during the fall commute.
Northwest Branch bridge
Drivers will encounter a new traffic pattern this month at the Capital Beltway bridge over the Northwest Branch in Silver Spring. Three lanes will go to the right of a work zone barrier, and the fourth will go to the left of it. To keep all lanes open during rush hours, the pattern has shifted periodically during the lengthy rehabilitation project.
With or without construction, this stretch near the Beltway’s interchange with Interstate 95 is one of the region’s traditional trouble spots, particularly on the outer loop. Last week, this area was one of the early warning signs of September Shock, as traffic steadily worsened during the morning rush.
HOT lanes construction
Construction workers will be busy on both the Beltway and I-95 in Virginia this fall. The high-occupancy-toll lanes on the Beltway probably will open before winter, and many stretches of pavement look done. But the most complicated parts of the project are the interchanges at I-66 and at the Dulles Toll Road, and there’s work to be done there.
All lanes are scheduled to remain open at rush hours, but drivers should watch for slow-moving construction equipment on the left sides of the inner and outer loops.
The I-95 HOT lanes project just got underway this summer and isn’t scheduled to be done until 2014, but drivers will notice the impact this fall. They may include slower travel times in the high-occupancy-vehicle lanes. Full closings of the HOV lanes may occur from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. every night, and one lane may be closed until 5 a.m.
Metro began its rush-hour service realignment on the Blue, Orange and Yellow lines in late June, so September will be the first full month for Rush Plus outside of vacation season.
Blue Line riders have complained all summer that the new rush-hour schedule has resulted in more crowded trains. But don’t look for any major adjustment in the service. Metro officials say the Rosslyn tunnel is at capacity. And they’re still figuring out how they will add in the Silver Line trains.
After this weekend, the Washington Nationals have just two more regular season homestands at Nationals Park. But for the first time, we may be discussing transportation to post-season games in October. Depending on the team’s fortunes, some of those games could be on Friday and Saturday nights, when Metro operates till 3 a.m. On Sunday through Thursday nights, Metro closes at midnight. If Metro stays open after that, some entity besides Metro will have to agree to pay for the overtime.