The Washington Post

The weekend and beyond: express lanes, big games, parades, delays

The 495 Express Lanes in the middle of the Capital Beltway between Springfield and the Dulles Toll Road area are set to open this weekend. (Robert Thomson – The Washington Post)

The biggest development on the D.C. area’s roads this weekend will be the opening of the express lanes on the west side of the Capital Beltway in Virginia. There will be some getaway traffic on the highways, among those lucky enough to have all of Thanksgiving week off.

The Capital Weather Gang forecasts a partly cloudy weekend in the D.C. area, with temperatures in the mid-50s. That’s a decent outlook for Sunday’s two major sporting events: Redskins vs. the Philadelphia Eagles in FedEx Field at 1 p.m. and the D.C. United playoff game with the Houston Dynamo in RFK Stadium at 4 p.m.

On Saturday, bundle up for the Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade along Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. The parade is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. from Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street, then head south on Georgia Avenue to Silver Spring Avenue.

Metro maintenance delays

Note these weekend delays if you’re taking Metrorail to the games on Sunday. The nearest station to FedEx Field is Morgan Boulevard on the Blue Line. Closest to RFK is Stadium-Armory on the Blue and Orange lines.

Red Line: From 10 p.m. Friday through the rail system’s midnight closing on Sunday, trains will share a track between Takoma and Forest Glen. Trains will leave about every 20 minutes from the ends of the line at Shady Grove and Glenmont, Metro said.

From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, more trains will be in service between Shady Grove and Fort Totten. So in that zone, trains should arrive at platforms about every 10 minutes. Add about 15 minutes of travel time if you’re going through the work area.

Orange Line: On Friday night and all day Sunday, trains will share a track between East Falls Church and West Falls Church. (There’s been a lot of weekend work in this area. Much of it is focused on the complex task of linking the Orange Line with the new Silver Line through Tysons.)

From 10 p.m. Friday through the early Saturday morning closing and then again all Sunday, the trains will operate about every 20 minutes. Add about 15 minutes to your travel time to get through the work zone.

Blue Line: From 10 p.m. Friday through the midnight closing Sunday, trains will share a track between Stadium-Armory and Addison Road. On Saturday only, trains will share a track between Pentagon City and Reagan National Airport. On Friday night and Sunday, trains will operate about every 20 minutes. On Saturday, they will operate about every 24 minutes. Add about 20 minutes of travel time through the work zones.

Yellow Line: On Saturday only, trains will share a track between Pentagon City and Reagan National Airport. (Same work zone for the Blue Line.) They will operate about every 24 minutes between Huntington and Mount Vernon Square. Add about 20 minutes of travel time for the work zone.

On Friday night and all Sunday, the Yellow Line trains will travel their normal off-peak route between Huntington and Fort Totten.

Express lanes opening

The 495 Express Lanes are scheduled to open at about 2 a.m. Saturday along the 14 miles between Springfield and the Dulles Toll Road area. Be extra careful driving along the Beltway corridor before that, because crews will be out making the last minute preparations for the opening. Drivers will see new traffic signals at some of the access points.

These are four high-occupancy toll lanes, two in each direction. From the moment the lanes open, drivers will need E-ZPass transponders to use them. (There’s no free get-acquainted period as there was with the opening of Maryland’s tolled Intercounty Connector.) If you have three or more people in your vehicle, you don’t have to pay the toll, but you do need a new type of transponder called the E-ZPass Flex. Otherwise, you’ll just pay the regular toll.

The toll varies with the level of traffic congestion. There’s no upper limit. Watch the signs as you approach the express lanes. They will display the current tolls to three destinations. You might not see the toll to your exit. In that case, look at the last toll on the sign. That’s the one to the end of the lanes. That’s the maximum your trip could cost.

 Even drivers very familiar with the Beltway may feel a bit disoriented during their first drive on the express lanes. It’s best to do a little bit of studying in advance

— This link goes to my guide to getting in and out of the express lanes.

— This link goes to a Q&A about what they are and how to use them.

— This link goes to the 495 Express Lanes Web site, which has more details and animations about the lanes.

New York Avenue

The District’s New York Avenue bridge rehabilitation project plans to reduce the westbound side to a single lane between Penn Street and Florida avenue from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Two lanes will be open on the eastbound side.

George Washington Parkway

The northbound lanes of the George Washington Parkway are scheduled to close from 8 p.m. Friday through 5:30 a.m. Monday between Spout Run Parkway and Chain Bridge Road. This is for the National Park Service’s rock stabilization program, which is going to continue for several months.

A detour route will be posted on the parkway, but this project has created extensive traffic congestion, and the best bet would be to avoid that area in Rosslyn altogether.

Beltway/Telegraph Road

While the express lanes are opening on the west side of the Beltway, work will continue on the other side for the last phase of the Wilson Bridge project around the Telegraph Road interchange.

From 10 p.m. Friday through 5 a.m. Saturday, Telegraph Road North will be closed between the ramp to Eisenhower Avenue and Duke Street. Motorists headed to Duke Street should take the ramp to Eisenhower Avenue East to the traffic circle to Holland Lane to Duke Street.  Motorists headed to the Beltway’s inner loop should take Eisenhower Avenue West to the Eisenhower Connector.  Motorists headed to the outer loop should take Huntington Avenue East to Route 1 North to the outer loop.

Telegraph Road South will be closed between Duke Street and Mill Road. Motorists on Duke Street West should continue to Van Dorn Street South to the outer loop to Telegraph Road South. Motorists on Duke Street East should continue to Route 1 South to Huntington Avenue West to Telegraph Road South.

Beltway/Northwest Branch bridge

The paving continues during the final phase of the two-year Beltway bridge rehabilitation project in Silver Spring between New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard. On Friday and Saturday nights, watch for single lane closings on the Beltway’s outer loop at 9 p.m. Two left lanes will be closed at 10 p.m. and three lanes will be shut at 11 p.m.  All travel lanes will open by 5 o’clock the next morning.

On the inner loop, a single lane will be closed at 9 p.m. Sunday, then drivers will find the two left lanes at 10 p.m. and three shut down at 11 p.m. They will be open by 5 a.m. Monday.

University Boulevard in Greenbelt

The Maryland State Highway Administration plans to close lanes on eastbound University Boulevard between 58th and 60th avenues in Greenbelt this weekend to build concrete bus pads.

Starting at 8 p.m. Friday, the two right lanes will be closed. They will reopen by noon Sunday.

Baltimore-Washington Parkway

The southbound BW Parkway is scheduled to close at West Nursery Road near BWI Marshall Airport from midnight to 4 a.m. Saturday so workers can install a new overhead sign. West Nursery Road over the parkway will close at 10 p.m. Friday and be open by 6 a.m. Saturday.

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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