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Virginia Railway Express to offer free rides during Metro closures

A commuter leaves a Virginia Railway Express train at Union Station on March 2. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The Washington Post)
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The Virginia Railway Express will offer free rides systemwide during September and an additional month of free service in areas affected by an eight-month Metro construction project between D.C. and Northern Virginia.

Two Metro projects will alter Blue and Yellow line service starting this fall. The transit agency plans to connect the new Potomac Yard station in Alexandria to the Metrorail track and system, and in a separate project, crews plan to repair a bridge between the Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations.

Work on both projects will begin Sept. 10 and require station shutdowns on both lines. Rail traffic across the Potomac River will be routed to other lines, with Metro providing free shuttle bus service between the shuttered stations.

To provide travelers with an alternative and to attract new riders, VRE said it will charge no fares in September. Service also will be free between some stations in Virginia and the District during October, according to the commuter rail agency.

Metro’s Blue, Yellow line construction will require detours this fall

Metro’s work to tie in the new Potomac Yard station, which was built between the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Braddock Road stations, will require a six-week shutdown of service south of the airport, which includes the closure of six Blue and Yellow line stations until Oct. 22.

“The decision to suspend fares will make VRE a more attractive and viable option for Metrorail riders during the closure of Blue and Yellow Line stations,” VRE said in a statement.

Free fares in October will be available to those traveling between the six VRE stations that transit officials say will be the most affected by the Metro station closures. They are Backlick Road on the Manassas Line, Franconia-Springfield on the Fredericksburg Line, and Alexandria, Crystal City, L’Enfant and Union Station on both lines.

“VRE will be a major contributor to mitigation efforts in the region during the first part of the Metrorail shutdown, which is expected to last six weeks,” VRE chief executive Rich Dalton said in a statement. “The temporary elimination of fares will maximize VRE’s usage.”

Metro’s Yellow Line bridge over Potomac will close for about eight months beginning this fall

The closed Metro stations will reopen Oct. 23, but the Yellow Line will remain closed as Metro works to repair a tunnel outside L’Enfant Plaza and its rail bridge across the Potomac River. That project is scheduled to stretch until May 2023.