The Washington Post

Traffic, transit tips for September and beyond

Crews continue to work on pedestrian pavilion at the Silver Line’s Tysons Corner station. (Chuck Samuelson — Dulles Metrorail Project)

For many commuters, post-Labor Day Tuesday wasn’t terrible, but Wednesday was wicked. Congestion was much more widespread during this morning’s rush. Traffic and transit data for the D.C. region show the badness is likely to continue building through September into October and November, before holiday breaks create their own set of travel challenges.

But even as the overall commuting experience worsens in late summer and fall, individual trips vary greatly depending on the route. Here are some of the particular situations that will affect travel, for better or worse.

Beltway in Silver Spring
The rehabilitation of the University Boulevard bridge over the Capital Beltway has been underway for several months, but the orange cones and lane shifts are now very evident on these two major commuter routes. The project is scheduled to continue into 2015.

Colesville Road traffic signal
While the long-delayed Silver Spring Transit Center has no opening date in sight, one part of the project is operational: A traffic signal at the center’s blocked-off entrance on Colesville Road was activated over the summer.

While the impact on commuters was unclear during the summer lull, it’s a plus for pedestrians, who are plentiful in this area just east of the Silver Spring Metro station entrance. They have a safer way across wide Colesville Road thanks to the new mid-block crosswalk controlled by the signal.

Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda
The Maryland State Highway Administration recently began a resurfacing project on Wisconsin Avenue along the half-mile between Bradley Boulevard and Montgomery Avenue. Works is scheduled to be done in fall 2014.

George Washington Parkway
Workers are installing a flashing beacon warning system at the Mount Vernon Trail crosswalk over the northbound lanes of the George Washington Parkway just before the Arlington Memorial Bridge. This warning system will remain in place till early October. It’s a test that’s part of the National Park Service much-needed program for long-term safety and traffic improvements in the area.

Trail users can activate the flashing beacon to notify motorists of their intention to cross the parkway. This is a tough spot for both the drivers and the trail users. Drivers tend to go way too fast here. Even with the temporary warning system, trail users should use great caution, however.

Repair work for Arizona Avenue bridge
Watch for single lane closings on Canal Road NW between Arizona Avenue and Clara Barton Parkway between 8:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. this week for completion of bridge painting and some detail work.

New  Metro garage
If you’ve been on vacation the past couple of weeks, watch for a new traffic pattern at the Dunn Loring Metro station. A new 1,400-space parking garage has replaced the surface lot, part of a project that eventually will result in a 50 percent increase in parking capacity at the Orange Line station. The parking lot will be the site for the second phase of the garage. Its completion in late 2014 will expand parking capacity by 700 spaces.

D.C. street closing
The D. C. streetcar line construction has shut 26th Street NE from Benning Road north to the construction entrance just south of now-closed Spingarn High School for about two months. The contractor will install two streetcar track switches in the westbound lanes of Benning Road on either side of 26th Street.

DDOT officials hope to open the H Street/Benning Road streetcar line late this year.

Route 29 bridge in Gainesville
The major transportation improvement of the summer: The Virginia Department of Transportation shifted Route 29 traffic onto the new bridge that separates drivers on this busy commuter route from the railroad crossing.

95 Express Lanes in Virginia
The 95 Express Lanes construction will continue to be the main road-work event for the D.C. region into this fall. Although the lanes aren’t scheduled to open until early 2015, this year marks the period of maximum impact on travelers.

If you live in Prince William County and commute to Tysons, consider taking the PRTC’s Tysons Express bus. Virginia Railway Express is an option for other commuters.

Check the electronic message boards on I-95 for warnings about work.

Check out www.getaroundva.­com, where you can sign up to receive electronic alerts. This will be especially helpful if you make only occasional trips on I-95 for getaways.

Consider I-95 alternatives, such as routes 17 and 301.

Virginia HOV hours
The HOV lanes on northbound ­I-395/95 in Virginia now close at 10 a.m. rather than 11 a.m. weekdays, and the southbound HOV lanes open at noon rather than 1 p.m.

The change will remain in effect until mid-October, VDOT said. Transportation officials hope this will ease southbound congestion during construction of the 95 Express Lanes and the I-95 shoulder lane project in Prince William County.

Into the fall, watch for: extensive lane closings and delays at off-peak hours day and night, occasional full closings of I-95 and overnight detours, slow-moving trucks entering and leaving the work zone in the median and reduced access to shoulders.

M Street SE project
The traffic pattern on M Street SE near the Navy Yard has changed because of a D.C. Water project.

There still are two eastbound and two westbound lanes between Seventh and 11th streets SE, but one of the westbound lanes shifts because of the construction. Watch for the overhead lane signals to indicate which lanes are open in your direction.

Metro weekend work
Metrorail plans work on three lines this weekend. See previous posting for details. This is the last weekend with a major disruption scheduled on the west side of the Orange Line where Metro and the Dulles Metrorail Project are linking the new Silver Line with the rest of the rail system.

Major track work on other sections of the system will continue through the fall, including the Columbus Day and Veterans Day weekends.

Silver Line
Work continues all along the route of the Silver Line, which will have four stations in Tysons and one, the first phase terminal, at the junction of the Dulles Toll Road and Wiehle Avenue near Reston. Project officials had hoped the new line could open by the end of this year, but delays have pushed that to early 2014.

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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