Dr. Gridlock's tips for Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010; 7:44 PM

Ramp closing extended

Because of recent weather problems, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project has extended the closure of the ramp from northbound Telegraph Road to the Capital Beltway's inner loop, which originally was scheduled to reopen last week. Now, it looks like workers will need two extra weeks to complete work on a bridge at the interchange.

Watch for variable message signs in the Telegraph Road corridor that guide drivers along this detour from northbound Telegraph Road: Take the new access ramp to Eisenhower Avenue, which is south of the Beltway, before the closed ramp. Turn left on Eisenhower Avenue and head west to the Eisenhower Connector to the inner loop.

Metro bag inspections

The Metro Riders' Advisory Council, a 21-member citizens panel, plans to hold a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 3 to discuss the transit authority's abrupt launch of a program in which police randomly check passengers' personal property before they enter the system.

Because of public concern about this policy, the council says, it would like to hear from riders about their experiences and their opinions. The Metro Transit Police Department has been invited to present information and answer riders' questions. The council meets on the lobby level of Metro headquarters at 600 Fifth St. NW in the District. Call 202-962-2891 for information.

Parkway ramp to open

Exit 166B from Interstate 95 south to Alban Road has been closed for a year during construction of the Fairfax County Parkway extension, but the project's planners hope to open the exit ramp from I-95 to the westbound parkway Wednesday afternoon. This will be a big benefit to drivers in the Newington area, who have been using the year-old detour.

Until this ramp opens, drivers will continue using Exit 167 to reach Fullerton Road. After that, the Virginia Department of Transportation says, any work on the parkway interchange with I-95 will be minimal.

Motorists will see work on the Boudinot Drive loop, just east of Accotink Creek, on the eastern end of the parkway project.

Metro New Year's Plans

On Friday, New Year's Eve, and on Saturday, New Year's Day, Metrorail will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m.

The trains will operate at the same reduced frequency that is typical of Sunday service.

Metrobuses also will be operating on a Sunday schedule both days, because ridership drops sharply on the holidays.

Metro did not schedule any track work projects for the last two weekends of the year.

smartbenefits changes

We've told you repeatedly on this page about pending changes in transit riders' employer-sponsored benefit programs. The effective dates of those changes have been postponed, but participants still should check with their employers to find out how this will affect them.

The biggest impact comes from the decision by Congress to extend till January 2012 the higher limit of $230 a month on the pre-tax transit benefit. But some employers, knowing that the higher benefit was scheduled to drop to its original level of $120 in January, made payroll adjustments for next month. Participants might need to submit a new form to their benefits departments to restore a pre-tax deduction higher than $120.

Meanwhile, the IRS decided to give employers and benefit administrators another one-year extension on complying with the long-standing rule that requires that transit benefits be separated into accounts for transit riding and for qualified parking. But this extension doesn't mean that the D.C. region's SmartBenefits program or the employers who participate have stopped trying to bring themselves into compliance with the IRS rule.

Check with your employer on the status of this change, too.

For more transportation news, go to washingtonpost.com/transportation.

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