Metro Closes 3 Stops, Including National Airport, for Holiday Weekend Repairs

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Station will be closed from 9:30 p.m. Friday until 4 a.m. Tuesday for extensive maintenance.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Station will be closed from 9:30 p.m. Friday until 4 a.m. Tuesday for extensive maintenance. (Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post)
By James Hohmann and Yamiche Alcindor
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Faced with a need to make major repairs, Metro will shut three stations, including Reagan National Airport, over this coming Labor Day weekend, a rare step for the beleaguered transit agency.

The move was immediately criticized by riders worried that their holiday travel plans will be disrupted and two Northern Virginia congressmen angered over travelers not getting more notice about the closure. Metro officials said that ridership is typically lower over Labor Day than other holiday weekends and that because the work will take three days they had few options.

The transit agency plans to close the airport station, as well as the Crystal City and Pentagon City stations on the Blue and Yellow lines, from 9:30 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Tuesday for extensive maintenance.

It's not uncommon for Metro to close sections of track for maintenance over long weekends, but it is highly unusual for a major station like the airport's to be shuttered. It has been at least five years since three stations closed at one time for maintenance work, said Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel. Last Labor Day weekend, Metro did track work between the National Airport and Braddock Road stations, but they remained open. Officials believe this is the first time the airport station has closed for a three-day weekend.

The closures are the result of long-planned track work, Metro said, and are not related to the June 22 accident that killed nine people on the Red Line. Regular service is expected to resume in time for Tuesday morning's rush hour. Still, at the end of a difficult summer for the beleaguered Metro system, riders and officials are especially sensitive to disruptions.

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) called the decision "troubling" and said he and Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) will complain Wednesday to Metro officials.

"Northern Virginians traveling this weekend have made plans, purchased tickets and are packing their bags," Connolly said in a statement. "Having knowledge of this closure sooner would have allowed them to make alternate travel plans and avoid unnecessary delays."

Taubenkibel said that a mention at the end of an Aug. 5 news release about the repair work, which stated that trains wouldn't be able to operate between the three stations, should have been interpreted as an announcement that stations would be closed. He said final details of the plan were completed Tuesday.

Shuttle bus service will be provided around the closed stations, but passengers should add 30 to 45 minutes of travel time to and from the airport "or they should consider using alternate transportation to the airport," Taubenkibel said.

Metro riders who learned of the closure Tuesday were upset. Caroline Joyce, an official with the American Legacy Foundation, was traveling to the airport on the Blue Line from Franconia-Springfield when she heard the news.

"Considering it's a holiday weekend, it's going to be a disaster," she said.

Caitlin Marolf, 21, a student studying in Alexandria, said the shutdown would ruin her weekend shopping plans. "Everyone is going to be trying to get to the mall," she said.

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