The week ahead in traffic, transit
This may be the quietest week of the year on the roads and rails, with schools closed and so many people either staying put at home or still of on a holiday break. "Weather permitting" will be the governing phrase concerning a lot of this week's road construction plans.There are no more snow storms in the Capital Weather Gang forecast for the rest of the week, but the temperatures should top out in the mid-40s.
On Thursday, the orange cones will get pulled up while workers and travelers share a break for the New Year's weekend. New Year's Eve will be a federal holiday, just as Christmas Eve was, and holiday traffic rules will be in effect.
Parkway ramp to open
Exit 166B from Interstate 95 south to Alban Road has been closed for a year during construction of the Fairfax County Parkway extension, but the project's planners hope to open the exit ramp from I-95 to the westbound parkway Wednesday afternoon, weather permitting. This will be a big benefit to drivers in the Newington area, who have been using the year-old detour.
Until this ramp opens, drivers will continue using Exit 167 to reach Fullerton Road. After that, the Virginia Department of Transportation says, any work on the parkway interchange with I-95 will be minimal. Motorists will see work on the Boudinot Drive loop, just east of Accotink Creek, on the eastern end of the parkway project.
Pennsylvania Avenue SE
The District Department of Transportation says it has finished most of the reconstruction work between 27th Street and Branch Avenue. The remaining roadway, sidewalk and curb reconstruction, part of a D.C. Great Streets project that is rebuilding the avenue in that area, should get started in late spring.
Starting this week, here's what travelers along Pennsylvania Avenue SE should watch for:
* Utility relocation and storm drainage construction between Alabama Avenue and Southern Avenue will continue through lane January.
* For about two months, water main installation will be underway between Alabama Avenue and Southern Avenue.
Drivers will find fewer lanes open than normal and they will encounter parking restrictions between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Three lanes will be open at all times, the transportation department says. A reversible lane will allow drives to have a total of two lanes in the peak direction, with one in the opposite direction.
Tysons Corner projects
Work continue on the HOT lanes and Dulles Metrorail projects in the Tysons Corner area as people head back in to exchange gifts, look for bargains or buy what they didn't get for Christmas. The traffic signals at Tysons and other Northern Virginia shopping areas are still on their special holiday timing, to account for the heavy shopping traffic.
Much of the construction activity, however, will occur overnight. The Westpark Bridge, which connects Westpark Drive to Tysons Corner Center over Route 123, is scheduled to begin a string of overnight closings. The bridge will be closed this Monday and Thursday from 10 p.m. to 5:30 the next morning. Overnight closings will continue through January.
At any time of day or night, drivers in that area will notice the enormous blue-and-yellow truss that workers use to lift segments of the rail line's guideway.
There are no lane closings planned from noon Thursday until next Monday, for the holiday weekend.
Ramp closing extended
Because of recent weather problems, dating to before this weekend, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project has extended the closure of the ramp from northbound Telegraph Road to the Capital Beltway's inner loop, which originally was scheduled to reopen last week. Now, it looks like workers will need two extra weeks to complete work on a bridge at the interchange.
Watch for variable message signs in the Telegraph Road corridor that guide drivers along this detour from northbound Telegraph Road: Take the new access ramp to Eisenhower Avenue, which is south of the Beltway, before the closed ramp. Turn left on Eisenhower Avenue and head west to the Eisenhower Connector to the inner loop.
Metro New Year's Plans
On Friday, New Year's Eve, and on Saturday, New Year's Day, Metrorail will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. The trains will operate at the same reduced frequency that is typical of Sunday service.
Metrobuses also will be operating on a Sunday schedule both days, because ridership drops sharply on the holidays.
Metro did not schedule any track work projects for the New Year's weekend.
Transit benefit changes
We've told you repeatedly about pending changes in transit riders' employer-sponsored benefit programs. The effective dates of those changes have been postponed, but participants still should check with their employers to find out how this will affect them.
The biggest impact comes from the decision by Congress to extend till January 2012 the higher limit of $230 a month on the pre-tax transit benefit. But some employers, knowing that the higher benefit was scheduled to drop to its original level of $120 in January, made payroll adjustments for next month. Participants might need to submit a new form to their benefits departments to restore a pre-tax deduction higher than $120.
Meanwhile, the IRS decided to give employers and benefit administrators another one-year extension on complying with the long-standing rule that requires that transit benefits be separated into accounts for transit riding and for qualified parking. But this extension doesn't mean that the D.C. region's SmartBenefits program or the employers who participate have stopped trying to bring themselves into compliance with the IRS rule.
Check with your employer on the status of this change, too.
| December 27, 2010; 6:00 PM ET
Categories: Commuting, Congestion, Construction, Driving, Metro | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, The week ahead
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