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Saturday, January 29, 2011; 7:01 PM

PAPERLESS BUS RIDES

Saturday was the last day Metrobus riders could use paper passes. Since October, Metrobus and many of the region's other bus systems have been switching the Seven-Day Bus Pass to plastic SmarTrip cards.

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A Seven-Day Bus Pass downloaded to SmarTrip costs $15 for the regular bus pass and $7.50 for the senior/disabled bus pass. Unlike paper bus passes, which always took effect on Sundays and were valid through the following Saturday, the new version on SmarTrip is valid for seven consecutive days of unlimited travel on regular Metrobuses and on regional bus systems, including ART, DASH, the Circulator, CUE, Fairfax Connector, Ride On and TheBus.

Riders can load two bus passes at a time onto their SmarTrip cards. When the first pass expires after seven days, the second pass will be ready to activate.

GREAT FALLS BRIDGE

The reopening of the Leigh Mill Road Bridge in Great Falls has been delayed because of the recent cold and snow and is now scheduled for Monday, the Virginia Department of Transportation says.

The bridge over Difficult Run has been closed since July 12 for repair. The schedule called for re-opening by Labor Day. But in August, VDOT engineers decided the structure was in worse shape than inspections had revealed. So the entire substructure had to be demolished and replaced.

HOT lanes work

Like other big projects in the region, the High Occupancy Toll lanes construction was slowed by the past week's weather. In the week ahead, there's plenty of overnight work scheduled.

These are the zones to watch out for: Dulles Connector Road (Route 267) west at Interstate 495, Dulles Toll Road (Route 267) east to I-495 north, I-495 north at Leesburg Pike (Route 7), I-495 north and south at Lee Highway (Route 29), I-495 north and south at Gallows Road (Route 650), I-495 north at Little River Turnpike (Route 236), I-495 north and south at Little River Turnpike (Route 236), and I-495 north and south at Braddock Road (Route 620).

BELTWAY/TELEGRAPH ROAD

Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to noon, the left lane of the Capital Beltway's outer loop will be closed at Telegraph Road for construction related to the rebuilding of the interchange for the Wilson Bridge project.

MORE COMMUTER PARKING

While sluggers in Virginia worry about the sharp reduction in parking for ride-sharers at Potomac Mills Mall that is scheduled to take effect Feb. 14, the Maryland State Highway Administration has added some ride-share parking in Frederick County.

An expansion lot on Route 340 near Elmer Derr and Mount Zion roads opened last week with 46 spaces. It's near the original 34-space lot, which had reached capacity.

VRE HEARINGS

Virginia Railway Express plans six hearings starting this week on proposals to change some fare structures and policies to deal with increasing ridership.

Cyclists are concerned about a proposal that would limit them to bringing aboard only collapsible bikes. Train officials are considering the idea because the trains are increasingly crowded. VRE also proposes to reduce the step-up fee for riders boarding certain Amtrak trains. It would go from $10 to $5, a change VRE hopes will ease crowding on its trains. Another VRE proposal would eliminate the group fare discount.

The first hearing is Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Rappahannock Regional Library, 1201 Caroline St. in Fredericksburg. The others are scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, 14700 Potomac Mills Rd.; 7 p.m. Feb. 15 at Manassas City Hall, 9027 Center St.; noon Feb. 16 at the Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Ave. NW; 7 p.m. Feb. 23 at Burke Centre Conservancy, 5701 Roberts Pkwy.; and noon Feb. 24 at VRE headquarters, 1500 King St., Alexandria.


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