Dr. G's tips for roads, Metro, buses for the coming week

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I-95 lane opening

The Virginia Department of Transportation hopes to open the new fourth lane on a portion of Interstate 95 north this week. That should ease holiday travel as well as the routine weekday commute.

Although travel between the District and Fredericksburg is often an ordeal, the three-lane stretch along the six miles between Route 123 and the Fairfax County Parkway can be especially teeth-grinding.

The schedule calls for the fourth northbound lane to open this month between Route 1 and the parkway.

The fourth lane on I-95 south between the parkway and Route 1 is scheduled to open next fall. The extra lane on both sides between Route 1 and Route 123 should open in fall 2011.

Guide to Metro announcements

Metro routinely puts out a schedule advising riders when to expect delays because of nighttime track work. It's very helpful. Except when it's not. Turns out, Metro's schedule is like the Pirate Code: more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules.

Work can start ahead of time if crews are in place early. That's a last-minute decision, and Metro would send out a last-minute alert about it. So you'd better be watching for last-minute alerts.

Va. Beltway shift

Virginia's high-occupancy toll lanes project has shifted the lanes at Route 50 on I-495 north and at the on-ramps from Route 50 west to I-495 north. The shift will remain for six to eight months to allow for bridge construction. This is likely to cause delays approaching the area at peak travel times.

Other HOT lanes work

Take this potential snag into account if you're planning one of those late-night holiday getaways I so often recommend: Thursday night through Saturday morning and again from Dec. 21 through the morning of Dec. 24, all four lanes on I-495 south at the Lee Highway (Route 29) overpass will close for up to half an hour several times from midnight to 5 a.m., VDOT says. The temporary closures will allow crews to install steel beams for a new bridge over the Capital Beltway that is part of the HOT lanes project.

The I-66 east and west exit ramps to I-495 south will also close all night beginning at 11 on those nights, and motorists will be detoured. Lane-closure setup on I-495 south will start at 9:30 p.m., and as traffic volumes decrease, additional lanes will be closed. All lanes will close for up to half an hour after midnight until 5 a.m.

Escalators update for Dupont Circle

Metro has partly fixed the escalator outage that has generated the most complaints from riders this fall. An escalator between Q Street and the Dupont Circle Station mezzanine that had been out of service since Oct. 26 is operating again, Metro says. But work continues on the other out-of-service escalator in that bank of three on the north side of the station.

When they're working, the north escalators provide a very long ride for train passengers. They're worse as a stairway, no matter in which direction the passenger is walking.

Dupont Circle's three south entrance escalators at 19th Street and Connecticut Avenue will be replaced and all the platform-level escalators units rehabilitated beginning in spring 2011. That's part of the long-term Red Line rehabilitation project.

Bus stops are moving

The bus stops on the north side of the Prince George's Plaza Metro station are scheduled to move temporarily on the Monday after Christmas.

The month-long relocation is forced by construction of a roundabout designed to improve traffic flow from the East-West Highway entrance, the transit authority said.

Starting Dec. 28, bus stops in the northern bus bay area will be moved temporarily to the south Kiss & Ride area and the south bus bay area. Kiss & Ride, car share, short-term parking and taxi access will be restricted to the area along Belcrest Center Drive on the north side of the station.

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