Metro's Labor Day Weekend Shutdown at National Airport Makes Sense

Friday, September 4, 2009

IN CASE you hadn't heard, Metro is closing its station at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and two other stations in Virginia, for three days of major maintenance work starting Friday evening and ending Tuesday morning. Now take a deep breath.

Yes, it happens to be Labor Day weekend. And yes, a couple of Metro board members from Virginia are in high dudgeon at what they say was a shocking breakdown in communications. In fact, Metro announced the closures Aug. 5, issuing a news release and sending it to all Metro board members along with a separate heads-up.

Now for a fact check. Labor Day weekend happens to be a fairly sleepy time of year for Metro passengers and for air travel. Business travel all but comes to a halt, and the vast majority of people on the move are on the road, not in the air. Metrorail traffic over Labor Day is much lighter than on a non-holiday weekend. As for transit passengers who do need to get to and from the airport this weekend, they'll be able to do so on shuttle buses that will run every 10 minutes to and from neighboring stations.

Some tourists and locals will be inconvenienced by the closures this weekend. But given that Metro needs a three-day weekend for major maintenance like that planned for the airport station, the alternatives would have been worse. Pushing the work off to Columbus Day weekend is a non-starter; other large-scale work is already scheduled for that weekend. After that, the next long weekend is Thanksgiving, one of the most air-travel-intensive times of the year.

Cut Metro a break for choosing a sensible time for the work at the airport station, and for getting the word out with plenty of advance notice.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company