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The weekend and beyond

[This post has been updated]

Here are some suggestions to guide your travels during what the Capital Weather Gang says will be a warm and sunny July 4 weekend.

The Getaway
Expect extra heavy traffic on the main roads and Interstates from noon to evening Friday, then again on Monday, the federal holiday. See my advice on handling the holiday traffic.

MARC's Friday plan
Because many people will be trying to escape work early Friday for the long weekend, MARC's Camden Line Train 852, which normally leaves Union Station at 5:51 p.m., will not operate. Instead, MARC says, a special train will leave Washington at 2 p.m. and make all stops to Camden.

More train cars than normal will be on the midday Penn Line trains. Brunswick Line Train 871 also will have extra cars.

Getting around on July 4
Check my guide to getting to the Mall and back. Hint: Take Metrorail, but remember that the Smithsonian Station is closed till after the fireworks, which should start about 9:10 p.m. Sunday.

SoberRide on July 4
The anti-drunk driving program SoberRide will offer free cab rides to people who have over-celebrated Independence Day. The program will operate from 10 p.m. Sunday until 6 a.m. Monday. To get a free ride home in the D.C. area (up to a $50 fare), call the SoberRide program toll free at 1-800-200-TAXI.

I-95/395 HOV lanes
Normal HOV-3 restrictions will be in place on Friday. That means that from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., drivers who meet the requirements can use the lanes northbound. From 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., driver who meet the requirements can use the lanes southbound.

At other hours, these reversible lanes are open to all traffic, but note the direction of traffic flow for this holiday weekend:
-- The lanes will be southbound from noon Friday to 2 p.m. Saturday, then again from 9 p.m. Sunday through 1 a.m. Monday. (This will help traffic leaving the District after the fireworks.)
-- The lanes will be northbound from 4 p.m. Saturday to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, then again from 3 a.m. Monday to 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The HOV restrictions will be lifted on Monday, the federal holiday, but will be back in effect on Tuesday.

Metro upgrades vending machines
You might notice this as you download your SmartBenefits to SmarTrip cards or add value to cover your July 4 round trip fare: Metro just put $3.5 million in federal stimulus money to good use.

A hundred vending machines have been upgraded to handle Metrorail passes, add value to SmarTrip cards and download SmartBenefits. Now, 446 of the system's 677 fare vending machines can accept both cash and credit or debit cards. This should decrease the lines that build up at busy stations at the start of the month and when special events occur.

Park & Ride construction in Springfield
Fairfax County will begin work next week on a new Park & Ride lot on Old Keane Mill Road by Springfield Boulevard starting with the demolition of the former Circuit City building.

The construction site is fenced off, but it's near the area known as Bob's Slug Line, which the county says will remain open from 5:45 to 9:15 a.m. The county transportation department asks that people use the the sidewalks along Springfield Boulevard and Old Keene Mill Road to reach their carpools or buses. More details on Springfield Park & Ride.

Lane shifts at Humpback Bridge
A new phase of construction has begun on the George Washington Parkway's Humpback Bridge. The old northbound lanes of the bridge will be demolished, then rebuilt. Northbound traffic is shifted temporarily to the center of the bridge.

The too-short ramp from the southbound 14th Street Bridge to the northbound parkway also will be rebuilt. During this phase of construction, the old ramp will be closed and drivers will be on a new temporary ramp. See more details on new phase at Humpback Bridge.

New D.C. meter rules
The rules for using D.C. parking meters were already a bit confusing before the city changed the rules again last week, so let's review this latest adjustment affecting the most congested parts of the District. What changed is this: In these areas, motorists no longer face a time limit after 6:30 p.m. What didn't change is this: They still must pay to park in these premium parking zones.

Motorists who chafed at the two-hour parking limits can now park for as many hours as they want after 6:30 p.m., but parking payments are required till 10 p.m. The meters in these areas have been updated so they can take more of your money to give you more time.

There's an exception to the new rule. In two very high demand areas, the Ward 6 and Columbia Heights Performance Parking Pilot zones, there is no change at all in the evening parking time limits. The Ward 6 zone includes the neighborhoods near Nationals Park. See more details about new D.C. parking rules.

GEORGE bus fares rise
Falls Church City's GEORGE bus service has increased its fare. The regular fare is now $1.50 and the senior and students fares are 75 cents.

Route 123/Beltway
The left lanes in each direction of Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) at the Capital Beltway in Tysons Corner will remain closed for the next 18 months to two years while a new inner loop bridge is built as part of the HOT lanes construction project

During morning and afternoon peak hours, drivers should anticipate delays of up to 15 minutes in that busy area. Route 123 has two through lanes and one merge lane in each direction. This is the same set up used last year when the new outer loop bridge was under construction.

By Robert Thomson  | July 2, 2010; 5:30 PM ET
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, The weekend and beyond  
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Wow, good news from Metro! I'm glad to hear about the upgrade to the fare machines.

Posted by: DOEJN | July 2, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

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