By Robert Thomson
Sunday, November 8, 2009; C02
New York Avenue NE, which connects D.C. neighborhoods and transports thousands of commuters heading downtown or to Virginia and Maryland, is about to get considerably more challenging. The availability of federal stimulus money and the need to replace a couple of deteriorating bridges have set up a long period of construction and traffic disruption along the corridor.
Several of the five construction projects have begun, but most serious effects on drivers will emerge in the spring. At that point, commuters should plan on adding 15 to 30 minutes to their usual travel times at peak periods on weekdays. Between First Street NE and the Ninth Street Bridge, drivers will navigate a gantlet that includes lane shifts, lane narrowings and merges. Drivers traveling north-south across New York Avenue also will find their trips lengthened. Walkers and bikers will encounter some sidewalk and bike lane closings and detours.
Traffic planners are going to use countermeasures. They will increase the green time on New York Avenue, although that will mean delays for north-south traffic. With some notable exceptions, lanes will be closed only at off-peak times or in the off-peak direction. If congestion gets too bad, they say, they will have contractors temporarily open lanes and reschedule work. Still, rush-hour congestion will probably be very bad, particularly approaching the zone between the New York Avenue and Ninth Street bridges.
Easing the pain
Modify your commute either by varying the time or choosing an alternative route. Bob Marbourg, the WTOP traffic reporter, suggests that commuters perform a "weekend reconnaissance," judging the degree of difficulty along your main route and getting familiar with a couple alternatives without the pressure of a workday. James G. Austrich, transportation management specialist with the D.C. police, said Rhode Island Avenue tends to be the least crowded of the major commuter routes in that area.
Check for traffic updates at the project's Web site, http://www.fixingnewyorkave.com, or at our site, http://www.washingtonpost.com. Project managers say they also will be using Twitter and Facebook to relay information.
Consider these alternative routes:
-- Montana Avenue to Rhode Island Avenue to Lincoln Road to North Capitol Street.
-- West Virginia Avenue to Florida Avenue.
-- South Dakota Avenue to Rhode Island Avenue to Lincoln Road to North Capitol Street.
-- Bladensburg Road to Florida Avenue.
-- Kenilworth Avenue to the exits for Benning Road, East Capitol Street or Howard Road.
Consider Metrorail and MARC to stay off the roads. The downside of Metrorail is that you'll have to get up extremely early to find a parking spot at one of the outer stations on the Green, Blue and Orange lines. Most tend to get crowded about 7 a.m.
Seek information about carpooling through the Web sites http://commuterconnections.org and http://commuterpage.com. Also, a ride-sharing incentive plan, similar to one the District used during the 2007 rehabilitation of the Douglass Bridge, is being developed to provide the first 1,000 eligible New York Avenue commuters with $50 a month toward bus, rail or organized vanpool travel.