The Washington Post

The weekend and beyond

The annual battle with traffic during the lighting of the National Christmas Tree is over, now it’s on to weekends of holiday shopping. On Sunday’s Commuter page in the Post’s Metro section, I’ll make some suggestions about surviving that challenge.

This James Eaton Mutant Pisces Painted aluminum automation is among items featured in a past Washington Craft Show. (Washington Craft Show)

It’s near Metro’s Mount Vernon Square station, but if transit is in your thoughts, be sure to check Metro’s maintenance schedule below.

On Saturday, there’s Georgetown basketball and Capitals hockey in the Verizon Center at Gallery Place, and the Redskins have a 1 p.m. game Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover.

Here’s the lookout for what the Capital Weather Gang says should be a mostly sunny and mild weekend.

Metro weekend maintenance

This is the last weekend of 2011 for major disruptions — the kind that close stations — in the Metro maintenance program. But from 10 p.m. Friday through the the midnight closing on Sunday, the program will have a significant impact on Red and Orange Line riders.

Red Line: Free shuttle buses will replace trains between Rhode Island Avenue and Glenmont. The Brookland, Takoma, Silver Spring, Forest Glen, Wheaton and Glenmont stations will be closed.

Fort Totten station will remain open for Green and Yellow line trains only.

The shuttle buses will stop at all stations between Glenmont and Rhode Island Avenue.

Trains will operate as usual between Rhode Island Avenue and Shady Grove. Weekend riders who might normally drive to outer stations on the eastern side of the line for a trip downtown might consider driving instead to Grosvenor, White Flint or Shady Grove on the western side.

Using the shuttles could add about a half hour to normal travel time through the work zone.

Orange Line: Free shuttle buses will replace trains between Cheverly and Deanwood. Those stations will remain open.

Trains will operate between Vienna and Deanwood on a regular weekend schedule, and between New Carrollton and Cheverly every 20 minutes. Figure on about 20 minutes of extra travel time.

Intercounty Connector

This weekend is your last chance to drive Maryland’s Intercounty Connector between I-370 and I-95 while it’s still free. The Maryland Transportation Authority, which operates the highway, is testing its toll equipment and allowing drivers to get acquainted with the road, before tolling resumes after midnight Sunday.

As of Monday, driving from one end of the connector to the other will cost $4 at peak periods (6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays), $3.20 off-peak and $1.60 overnight (11 p.m. to 5 a.m.).

Owners of vehicles without an E-ZPass will receive a bill in the mail charging them a Video Toll Rate for a trip on the connector. The charge generally will be 150 percent of the E-ZPass toll rate, but there is a minimum video surcharge of $1.

If you want to get a Maryland E-ZPass — and there’s no requirement that your E-ZPass come from Maryland to use the connector — go to or to the E-ZPass Stop-in Centers at the Beltsville and Gaithersburg Motor Vehicle Administration offices. They’re open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

The Beltsville office has special Saturday hours, 8:30 a.m. to noon this weekend and next. The address is 11760 Baltimore Ave. The Gaithersburg office is at 15 Metropolitan Grove Rd.

Dulles Toll Road meeting

On New Year’s Day, the toll at the main toll plaza on the Dulles Toll Road is going to rise by 25 cents.

On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates the highway, plans to host a public information session about the toll road’s finances, operations and planned improvements.

The session is scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. in the South Lakes High School cafeteria, 11400 South Lakes Drive, Reston.

Foggy Bottom escalators

Post Metro Girl Dana Hedgpeth and I went over to Metro’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday to mark the completion of the third of three brand new escalators between 23rd Street and the mezzanine at Foggy Bottom station.

To the left, as you look at the station entrance, an area remains behind wooden boards. That’s where the staircase will emerge early next year. Also still to come is a canopy over the entire entrance.

I asked Metro Deputy General Manager Dave Kubicek if he was worried about the escalators getting done before the new canopy to protect them. Kubicek is very enthusiastic about these new escalators, the first in 15 years. He said they’re very tough compared to previous editions. (When you ride them, you’ll sense this too.) They shouldn’t have a problem running several more months without the canopy.

Maryland bridge inspections

The Maryland State Highway Administration is continuing its program of routine bridge inspections this weekend, resulting in some lane closings.

I-270 near I-370: Watch for alternating double left and double right lane closings on southbound I-270 from 4:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Route 50 ramp over the Capital Beltway: Watch for alternating double left and right lane closings on the Beltway’s inner loop from 5 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Briggs Chaney Road over Route 29: Watch for alternating double left lane closings, then single right lane closings, starting on southbound Route 29 from 4:30 to 8 a.m. Sunday. That will be followed by similar lane closings on the northbound side from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

Shopping trips to Tysons

If you’re like me, and you visit shopping malls only for gift-giving emergencies, like Christmas, here’s a heads-up about a change in the road pattern this holiday season.

On Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) at the Capital Beltway, the left lanes have been restored. On the northbound side, heading away from Tysons, the ramp to the Beltway’s inner loop also has been restored, and the left-turn lane at the traffic signal is gone.

Meanwhile, I have seen some significant backups on the inner loop approaching the Route 7 exit on the south side of Tysons.

D.C. streetcars

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and the District Department of Transportation’s streetcar team have scheduled a meeting to update the public on plans for the the H Street/Benning Road streetcar line.

The meeting is set for 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. The closest Metrorail stop is at Union Station. The center also can be reached via Metrobus Routes X2, X8, X9. (X9 service ends at 6:30 p.m.)

SoberRide for holidays

The SoberRide program offered by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program through a network of cab companies is going to be operating from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night between next Friday and New Year’s Eve. Adults in the D.C. region who are at risk of driving while impaired can get a free ride home up to a $30 fare value by calling 800-200-TAXI.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.


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