Correction to This Article
An item said Metrorail is the second-largest subway system in the nation. Metrorail is the second-largest system by ridership, but the Chicago system is the second largest by miles.

Dr. Gridlock's traffic, transit tips

Saturday, January 15, 2011; 8:35 PM

President's day weekend

The Metrorail maintenance program that has shut down Foggy Bottom Station through Monday night will be followed by more big repairs Presidents' Day weekend, starting Friday night, Feb. 18, and continuing through Monday, Feb. 21.

Metro plans to close the Blue and Orange line stations at Federal Triangle and Smithsonian, resuming normal service Tuesday morning, Feb. 22.

During that time, workers will replace four track switches near Smithsonian Station. Just as it is doing this weekend to get around the Foggy Bottom closing, the agency will operate free shuttle buses around Federal Triangle and Smithsonian. Riders should add 40 minutes to their normal travel time to get through the work zone.

Aggressive maintenance

And that's just for starters, the transit authority says. Maintenance programs to repair and replace aging equipment on tracks and in stations and tunnels will become even more intensive this year.

There's just too much to do. As Metro continues with its long-term rehabilitation of the Red Line, the long-term rehabilitation of the Orange and Blue lines is getting underway. On just about any weekend when Metro does not expect big crowds, riders are likely to find one or two tracks shut down to make room for maintenance projects.

Is all this the result of some big screwup on the part of Metro's management? I don't see it that way. Today's bosses didn't have anything to do with the design of the system or its financing. An earlier generation built the second-largest subway system in the nation for our benefit, but now we have to fix it.

The rider complaints I receive focus on two concerns: They say station managers often seem ill-informed about plans and can't respond to questions. They also say announced train schedules for disrupted lines often fold in the face of reality, as gaps between trains increase.

H Street NE

For about four weeks starting Tuesday, the 700 block of 12th Street NE from H Street south to G Street will be restricted to southbound traffic as part of the H Street rehabilitation project.

The usual two lanes of traffic on 12th Street will be reduced to one. This will enable a contractor to install streetcar tracks on H Street and complete work across the intersection.

Northbound motorists can use 11th or 13th streets.

The District Department of Transportation plans to close the south side of the Eighth Street intersection with H Street during the day Friday and Saturday to accommodate streetcar track work.

Ohio Drive

Minor work continues on Ohio Drive near the Lincoln Memorial, the National Park Service says. A problem with traffic detectors near 23rd Street was discovered. The detectors must be reinstalled, but that can't be done until spring, when the weather warms up.

All traffic lanes have been reopened, but some brief single-lane closings will occur from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The morning rush traffic pattern has all lanes open for inbound and outbound traffic. The afternoon rush pattern has four lanes outbound.

Turning off lights

The Maryland State Highway Administration has turned off about 75 lights along Route 100 between Columbia Pike and Coca-Cola Drive in Howard County. This is a year-long experiment to evaluate the impact of reductions in highway lighting, which would result in cost-savings.

The highway agency says it evaluated several locations for this pilot program and determined that overhead lighting could be reduced while still meeting state and federal safety standards.

The light poles will remain in place during the experiment. If the lighting reduction becomes permanent, the poles will be removed.

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