THE REGION

Bridge Work to Close Beltway Lanes

Both directions of the Capital Beltway in Alexandria will be reduced to a single lane during overnight hours beginning tomorrow night and lasting into next week.

Additionally, all outer-loop lanes will be closed periodically for 20- to 30-minute intervals and the ramps from northbound and southbound Telegraph Road to the outer loop will be closed during overnight hours.

Wilson Bridge officials advised drivers to avoid the area and warned that backups could extend as far west as the Springfield interchange, where overnight work also is planned this weekend.

The closures are necessary so crews can lift 80-foot-long steel beams over the Beltway for new highway ramps that are part of the bridge project.

Bridge officials said similar lane closures last month produced backups of about 2.5 miles.

The lanes definitely will be closed Friday and Saturday nights and possibly Sunday and Monday nights, if necessary.

Report Lauds Re-Timing of Traffic Lights

A program to better synchronize the Washington region's traffic signals is ahead of schedule, according to a report made public yesterday by the region's Transportation Planning Board.

In 2002, the board asked local transportation departments to synchronize 3,000 traffic signals by this year. The report found that 3,200 signals have been adjusted.

The study showed that travel times have been cut between 5 and 20 percent. For example, a trip down Georgia Avenue from Gold Mine Road in Olney to Route 410 (East West Highway) near the District line stretches 14 miles. The trip used to take 35 minutes 20 seconds. After the light updates, it now takes 33 minutes 29 seconds, about a 5 percent reduction in travel time.

Optimizing the signals costs about $3,000 per signal. The Maryland State Highway Administration estimates a savings of $10 in time and fuel for each $1 spent fixing the signals.

While the time saved by the average commuter seems minimal, officials said that the reduced time spent idling adds up to big savings for the region's air quality. The signal changes are saving more than half a ton a day of nitrous oxide emissions, according to a board researcher.

Area's Air Quality Is Getting Better

Air pollution in the Washington region is improving and will meet federal standards set last year, according to a report released yesterday by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

The report found that the amount of tiny particulate matter that floats through the air and lodges in human lungs will lessen by about 40 percent between 2002 and 2010. The federal standards require the amount of particulate matter to decrease over that span.

Ronald F. Kirby, the council's transportation planning director, said the projected reduction largely is the result of cleaner diesel engines. The reduced amounts of particulates mean that pollution won't prevent area governments from building new roads.

VIRGINIA

Apartment Fire in Leesburg Displaces 17

A pre-dawn fire at a Leesburg apartment complex yesterday displaced 17 people from four units, authorities said.

The fire, the cause of which was not immediately known, began at the Glen Apartments on Heritage Way about 4 a.m., Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Services officials said.

Fire crews woke and evacuated several residents, and Leesburg police officers formed a human ladder to bring down a mother and child who were stranded on a second-floor balcony, officials said.

No one was injured, officials said. The Loudoun County fire marshal's office is investigating the cause of the fire.

Virtual Tour Guide Launched in Fairfax

Visit Fairfax, the county's tourism agency, this week launched a new strategy in its campaign to promote Fairfax's image with virtual tours of attractions on its Web site, www.fxva.com.

The virtual tour takes visitors through the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center, several Civil War sites, shopping areas in Tysons Corner and other destinations.

Visit Fairfax, created in 2004 as a stand-alone agency funded by a hotel visitor tax, launched its new brand, FXVA, and slogan, "Fx Marks the Spot," in September.

THE DISTRICT

Meeting on Charter Schools Today

The D.C. Board of Education will hold a public hearing today to seek public input on how it should improve its oversight of charter schools.

The hearing will be held at Community Academy Public Charter School, 1300 Allison St. NW, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Board members in recent months have faced criticism for their oversight of the 18 charter schools under their jurisdiction. Over the years, the board has revoked the charters of seven schools for poor performance. In comparison, the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which oversees 34 schools, has revoked the charter of only one of its schools.

Earlier this month, the Board of Education appointed an ad hoc committee to find ways to improve the board's monitoring of charter schools.

Nightclub's Liquor License Suspended

The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board voted unanimously last night to suspend the liquor license of Kili's Kafe, a nightclub in Northwest Washington that police say has attracted violence and become a safety hazard, city officials said.

The owners of Kili's can request a hearing to appeal the decision, which was reached by a 6 to 0 vote, city officials said.

Police used emergency powers on Monday to shut down Kili's after four men were shot and wounded outside the club early that Monday. Authorities said other violence has taken place near the club, in the 2000 block of Eighth Street NW, including two homicides.

In a letter to city regulators on Monday, D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said that police have responded to Kili's Kafe 99 times since it opened in September 2003.

The club's management has denied wrongdoing and said the nightclub is not responsible for violence.

"He's a poor man's Joe Pesci. Ask any lawyer, 'Who's "My Cousin Vinny" in Prince George's County'? Ten out of 10 will say Richie Palumbo."

-- Retired Circuit Court Judge Vincent J. Femia, one of Palumbo's closest and oldest friends. -- B1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Del Quentin Wilber, Fredrick Kunkle, Annie Gowen, Lisa Rein, V. Dion Haynes and Steven Ginsberg and the Associated Press.