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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 12/20/2010

The week ahead for traffic, transit

By Robert Thomson

Construction updates | Travel tips l Capital Weather Gang

Friday is a holiday for federal workers and many other people. Expect a Christmas getaway on the highways, at Union Station and the D.C. region's airports on Thursday. The Capital Weather Gang is giving us a heads up about the possibility of a winter storm late Christmas Eve and into Christmas Day, but it's still early. We can talk more about getaways, as well as other traffic and transit issues during my online chat at noon.

Metrobus changes
Many Metrobus schedules are changing this week. I hope Maryland riders who were complaining last week that the new schedules had not been distributed now have them, so they know exactly what their options are. The complete schedules are available on Metro's Web site. These are some highlights of the changes.

Virginia-D.C.: The new 7Y will provide service through the Pentagon and across Memorial Bridge to Federal Triangle Metro station. An extended 16F, originating in Culmore, will travel along Columbia Pike to the Pentagon and across the 14th Street Bridge to Federal Triangle.

D.C.: The X9 will provide peak-period, limited-stop service between the Capitol Heights Metro station and 13th and H streets NW. Also planned for this Benning Road corridor is an extension of the X1 to Foggy Bottom Metro station.

Maryland: Service will be added on the popular but slow J2 route between Silver Spring and Bethesda. Metro also will split the R12 between New Carrollton and Deanwood Metro stations into two routes, the R12 and G12. A midday service will be added to the T17 and that service will be relabeled as the G14.

Metro's holiday schedule
Metrorail will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday, Christmas Eve. On a normal weekday, the train system opens at 5 a.m., but Christmas Eve will be a holiday for many people in the D.C. area. The same schedule will apply on Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

Metrobus will operate on a Sunday schedule from Christmas Eve through Sunday, Dec. 26, as well as from New Year's Eve through Jan. 2. A modified weekday schedule will be in effect from Dec. 27 to 30.

MetroAccess will cancel all subscription trips on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. All trips during those time periods must be reserved separately.

Final weeks for Tysons shuttle
The end of a noble experiment: The Tysons Connector, a free bus service created to shuttle shoppers, residents and employees across Tysons Corner at midday, will stop operating on Dec. 30. The Virginia Department of Transportation says that after a year of operation, ridership was not sufficient to continue the service.

When the shuttle began service in November 2009, planners saw it as a way of getting people through the congestion created by the HOT lanes and Dulles rail projects, which have made travel more difficult on Routes 7 and 123 in particular. The buses, which operate every 10 minutes between 10 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. weekdays will continue to do that job through the Christmas season.

Tips for Tysons
Tysons Corner, 100,000 people work and tens of thousands of others shop, is also the location of two of the region's biggest transportation projects, the HOT lanes and Dulles rail.

On Route 7 west of Route 123, the lanes weave. They are lined with orange barrels and concrete barriers. The drivers ahead, and to your side, will make sudden moves in heavy traffic. The mid-block turns have disappeared but the main intersections and their left-turn lanes still exist.

Be extra careful on the new, temporary ramp from southbound Route 123 to westbound Route 7. Look sharp for the entrance after passing International Drive. Then notice the two-way traffic, the driveways and the 15-mph speed limit as the ramp winds toward a stop sign at Route 7. Right on Route 7 is the only way to go there.

The left lanes on Route 123 at the Capital Beltway are blocked for construction of a new Beltway bridge. Drivers who leave Tysons on northbound Route 123 and hope to reach the Beltway's inner loop must resist the reflex to stay right. That ramp is gone. Stay in the left lane, then move into the two left-turn lanes at the traffic signal.

Other tips for shoppers
The District's street parking fees have gone up since last year. In popular shopping and entertainment areas, it costs $2 per hour and the rules are enforced on Saturdays. Look for the new meters that take credit cards.

Through New Year's Day, the Virginia Department of Transportation customizes signal timing plans at 16 shopping centers in Northern Virginia. The goal is to give adequate time for drivers entering and exiting shopping centers while reducing traffic queues and keeping the main roads moving. Maryland uses a different system in which signals respond to current demand throughout the year.

Hot spots for holiday traffic in Maryland include Rockville Pike, Landover Road near the Boulevard at the Capital Centre, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Route 100 near Arundel Mills and I-295 and I-95 near National Harbor.

SoberRide for holidays
The SoberRide program, which has done so much over the years to keep our roads safe during celebration times, will operate through Jan. 1.

During the evening hours, area residents who are 21 or older and have over-celebrated may call SoberRide toll-free, 800-200-TAXI, and get a no-cost taxi ride home. (That's up to a $30 fare.)

SoberRide is offered in the District and Alexandria, in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and in Arlington, Fairfax, eastern Loudoun and Prince William counties.

Getaway hot spot
All the highway departments in the D.C. region will pull up their orange cones in time for the holiday getaway later this week. Metrorail won't be doing weekend work for the last two weekends of the year.

But the construction bottleneck that we warned you about a Thanksgiving, the one at the Newark Toll Plaza on I-95 in Delaware, will still be there.

By Robert Thomson  | December 20, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting, Congestion, Driving, Getaways, Metro, MetroAccess, Metrobus, Transit  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, The week ahead  
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