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Posted at 8:45 AM ET, 12/17/2010

The weekend and beyond

By Robert Thomson

Construction updates | D.C. area travel tips | Going Out Guide

It's the last weekend for Christmas shopping, so be prepared for crowded conditions around the malls. There may also be some boomlets of holiday getaway traffic on Friday evening and Saturday morning among the lucky ones who are on vacation during the coming week. For those with school children, Thursday will be a big getaway day.

This is also the last weekend of the year for Metro track work delays. Riders may also encounter police who want to inspect their property before they board the trains and buses.

Metro weekend delays
Red Line: Riders between Silver Spring and Wheaton should add at least 20 minutes to their travel time from 10 p.m. Friday through the midnight closing on Sunday. Workers will be replacing a track switch at Forest Glen and trains will be sharing a track around the work zone.

Blue Line: Riders between Stadium-Armory and Addison Road should add half an hour to their travel time from 10 p.m. Friday through the Sunday closing. Workers will be installing communications cable for those of you clamoring for more cellphone service aboard the underground trains. (Report your cell service signals on our map)

Riders between Braddock Road and Van Dorn Street should add at least half an hour to their travel time from 11 p.m. Friday through the Sunday closing. Workers will be doing maintenance related to the Wilson Bridge project, which is rebuilding the roadways around the Telegraph Road interchange.

Orange Line: Riders between Vienna and West Falls Church should add at least half an hour to their travel time from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Workers will be welding new rail in that area. Every other Orange Line train heading toward Vienna will end its run at the West Falls Church and head back toward New Carrollton.

Rosslyn bus stops moved
Metrobus stops for Routes 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B, 4E, 4H, 5A and 38B near the Rosslyn Metro station will be temporarily moved about one block away to North Lynn Street from midnight Friday to 4 a.m. Monday. An elevator construction project will be underway at the station. Routes will be slightly altered near the construction site, because Moore Street between Wilson Boulevard and 19th Street North will be closed during this time. See details of the route adjustments.

Metrobus changes coming
Many Metrobus schedules are changing for the better starting Sunday, but riders in Maryland are telling me they sure wish they could see those schedules at their bus stops and on their buses, so they'll know exactly what their options are. These are some highlights of the changes.

Virginia-D.C.: The new 7Y will provide service through the Pentagon and across the 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.

Metrorail holiday schedule
Metrorail will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. next 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 on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. All trips during those time periods must be reserved separately.

Tysons shuttle to shut
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 transporation 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, is holiday edition today, Friday, and will continue it through Jan. 1.

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

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

By Robert Thomson  | December 17, 2010; 8:45 AM ET
Categories:  Construction, Driving, Metro, Weekend Work  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, The weekend and beyond  
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