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Likely D.C. traffic problems during nuclear security summit

By Robert Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 11, 2010; C02

Washington commuters know about the demands of hosting national and international events. Still, they are in for a rare and challenging experience Monday and Tuesday, when world leaders gather at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for a nuclear security summit.

The roads

Just south of the convention center is Mount Vernon Square, right in the middle of a big X created by New York and Massachusetts avenues, two of the District's busiest commuter routes. Also important to commuters is Seventh Street NW, which connects with Georgia Avenue, the Mall and the Southwest Waterfront.

These connections will be severed from about 10 p.m. Sunday through 8 p.m. Tuesday.

That will probably make H Street NW even more popular with commuters. It also will jam many other streets in the grid fanning out from Mount Vernon Square. Traffic approaching the square on New York and Massachusetts avenues is likely to be even slower than normal.

Plus, there are the wild cards. We know which streets are marked for closing, but police can block other streets for security at their discretion. And we'll have more than 40 world leaders in town. That's a lot of motorcades.

The buses

Metrobus, the Circulator and the suburban commuter buses will be caught in this traffic. Metro announced detours on 13 downtown routes, including some that originate in the suburbs. The Circulator's Union Station-Georgetown route will be split in two, dividing into east and west routes in the Mount Vernon Square area, although it will maintain some through service for those who won't be able to walk between those zones. The Convention Center-SW Waterfront route will terminate at I Street NW.

MetroAccess will not operate within the security zone.

The trains

Metro will close the Mount Vernon Square Station from 9 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday night. Green and Yellow line trains will be able to pass through the station but won't stop.

Yellow Line trains that typically operate between Huntington and Mount Vernon Square from 5 to 9:30 a.m. and from 3 to 7 p.m. will instead terminate at Gallery Place on Monday and Tuesday. At all other times, Yellow Line trains will operate to Fort Totten.

Look for a lot of extra security throughout the Metrorail system. Police will be carrying heavy weapons, and specially trained dogs will be present. Riders can contact Metro Transit Police at 202-962-2121.

One extra security measure: The restrooms in the Metro stations will be closed.

The sidewalks

Pedestrian traffic in the restricted area will be limited to residents and to owners or employees of local businesses. People will have to show a government-issued photo ID. Fencing and other barriers will surround the security zone, along with plenty of law enforcement personnel.

The parking

The zone where parking will be restricted extends beyond the closed streets. The hours are 7 p.m. Sunday through noon Wednesday. Look for the emergency no-parking signs.

Travel tips

-- Think big. The travel impacts are likely to spread far beyond the downtown security zone.

-- Metrorail will be extra crowded, but it's probably the best way to get around. Leave home especially early Monday and Tuesday if you need a parking space at a station or you don't feel like letting a few trains pass by before you can cram aboard.

-- Better yet, pick Monday and Tuesday to telecommute. The federal government is encouraging its employees to do so.

-- Metro suggests using the Next Bus phone and Internet service to track Metrobuses, but it hasn't been functioning well during traffic disruptions. The transit authority says it will have plenty of supervisors deployed around the affected area to guide bus passengers whose trips are disrupted by the heavy traffic and blocked streets.

-- On Monday and Tuesday, the Georgetown-Union Station Circulator will not be an effective way to get all the way across the District. A better bet from Union Station would be the Red Line, changing to the Blue or Orange Line from Metro Center to Farragut West and picking up a 38B bus from Farragut Square to Georgetown. -- Passengers on the Circulator's Georgetown-Union Station split route will have to pay for each of the two routes if they're using cash. A SmarTrip card provides a free transfer.

-- The summit won't have many events to compete with. At nearby Verizon Center, there's a concert scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, but no sports events. The Nationals are on the road.

Look for traffic and transit updates on our Get There blog, at http://voices.washingtonpost.com/getthere. E-mail questions to transportation@washpost.com.

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