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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/24/2011

The week ahead in traffic, transit

By Robert Thomson

NY Ave inbound.jpg
Inbound traffic moves through new work zone at New York Avenue Bridge. (Thomson)

Construction updates | Travel tips l Capital Weather Gang

Several of the many events that mark us as the nation's capital have the potential to slow travel this week. One, the annual March for Life to protest the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision will be held today. The other, the State of the Union address, is scheduled for Tuesday evening. The forecast for local travel looks pretty good -- unless you count late Tuesday into Wednesday, when the Capital Weather Gang predicts a storm will pass through, though it's still uncertain what type of precipitation we're in for.

March for Life events
A Youth Rally and Mass for Life is scheduled for 9 a.m. at Verizon Center. At about 11 a.m., the people at the Verizon Center will march to the National Mall. They will go south on 7th Street NW, which will be closed to traffic during the event, as will all streets that lead directly to it. The streets will re-open as the procession passes.

The March for Life rally on the mall will begin at about 11 a.m. between Fourth and Seventh streets. Fourth Street will be closed at about 9:30 a.m. between Independence Avenue SW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The street will remain closed until the event is over. At about 1:30 p.m., the participants will march to the Supreme Court by this route: North on Fourth Street from the mall, east on Constitution Avenue NW and south on First Street NE to the court. See route map.

Those streets will be closed to traffic until the last of the participants has passed the intersection. In addition, streets that lead directly to the march route will be closed to through traffic.

The effect on local travel may be greatest after the events end around 5 p.m. or later. Traffic delays are likely on Independence and Constitution avenues, and on streets near the Smithsonian, L'Enfant Plaza, Capitol South and Federal Triangle Metro stations. (Those are the closest stations for the rally and march.)

Rally participants planning to take transit to the Mall can use Metro's online Trip Planner to check their bus and train options. Also useful is the Next Bus system, which can be used either by phone or Internet to predict the arrival time of buses at individual bus stops.

However, it's likely that some Metrobus routes will be detoured because of the street closings, and that will affect the accuracy of both Trip Planner and Next Bus in the downtown area immediately around the rally and march.
The afternoon events may also affect the arrival times for homeward bound MTA commuter buses.

Rally participants should also note that Metro fares are higher than they were a year ago, following increases that took effect over the summer. Also, the free bus-to-bus transfer time has been reduced from three hours to two hours.

Foggy Bottom escalators
Metro today is scheduled to start a year-long, $6 million project to replace the three old, often-out-of-service escalators between 23rd Street NW and the station mezzanine at Foggy Bottom. Also, workers will add a staircase adjacent to that bank of escalators between 23rd Street NW and the station mezzanine. Above it all will be a canopy to better protect the works from the weather.

Foggy Bottom's escalators have long been cursed by riders, because they must all funnel through one station exit. Frequently, they would find two of the aging escalators out of service for repairs. That would require Metro to turn off the remaining escalator so riders could use it as a staircase. That created long lines on the mezzanine and street as people slowly made their way up and down.

During the escalator replacement at Foggy Bottom, workers will take one escalator out of service at a time. Another one of the three will go up, and the other one down. Read more about Metro's escalator problems.

Manassas overpass
For a few weeks, drivers may encounter construction delays in either direction on Route 28 (Nokesville Road) near Wellington Road. One of two lanes will be closed between Technology Drive and Cockrell Road through the first week of February. As an alternative, drivers can use Godwin Drive and Sudley Road.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is building a four-lane bridge on Route 28 over Wellington Road and the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks in Manassas to eliminate the at-grade crossing. On a typical weekday, 20 trains and about 23,500 vehicles make their way through that area.

The project is scheduled to be done in November 2012. It was advanced five years on Virginia's long-term plan thanks to the addition of $18.3 million in federal stimulus money. The total price will be about $44 million.

In eliminating the at-grade crossing, the new bridge also will allow the number of railroad tracks to increase from one to three, which holds the potential for improved VRE service,

State of the Union
On Tuesday evening, traffic restrictions will be in effect around the Capitol. President Obama is scheduled to deliver the State of the Union address at 9 p.m. These areas are scheduled to be closed from 7 p.m. until the end of the event:

• D Street NE between Second Street NE and Louisiana Avenue NW
• C Street NE between Second Street NE and Louisiana Avenue NW
• Constitution Avenue between Second Street NE and Louisiana Avenue NW
• Delaware Avenue between Columbus Circle and Constitution Avenue NE
• New Jersey Avenue between Louisiana Avenue and D Street NE
• Pennsylvania Avenue between First Street and Third Street NW
• East Capitol Street between Second Street and First Street NE/SE
• First Street between Columbus Circle NE and C Street SE
• First Street between Louisiana Avenue NW and Washington Avenue SW
• Maryland Avenue SW between First Street and Third Street SW
• Independence Avenue between Second Street SE and Washington Avenue SW
• C Street between First Street SE and Washington Avenue SW
• Delaware Avenue between Washington Avenue SW and C Street SW
• New Jersey Avenue between Independence Avenue and D Street SE
• South Capitol Street between Independence Avenue and D Street SE/SW

11th Street Bridge
The District Department of Transportation plans to close the outbound 11th Street Bridge and some ramps overnight Wednesday and Thursday to accommodate overhead girder construction work for the new spans rising between the two old ones. The closings will start at 10 p.m. each night and continue until 5 a.m. the next morning.

The set-up activity for the closings will begin at 8 p.m. each night. If the weather turns bad, the work will be rescheduled during the same overnight hours on Jan. 30.

During the closures, detours will be posted for motorists who want to reach southbound Interstate 295 or Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. To reach I-295, drivers will be directed to travel the Southeast-Southwest Freeway to either South Capitol Street or Pennsylvania Avenue, where they can reach 295. To reach Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, drivers will be sent east on the Southeast-Southwest Freeway to Pennsylvania Avenue, south on DC 295/Interstate 295 to the Howard Road exit and then east on Howard Road SE.

Great Falls bridge reopening
The Virginia Department of Transportation plans to re-open the one-lane bridge on Leigh Mill Road over Difficult Run in Great Falls by noon Thursday. The bridge has been closed to traffic since July 12 rehabilitation. It was originally scheduled to re-open by Labor Day, but in August VDOT said, its engineers determined that the bridge abutments and wing walls were in worse condition than previous inspections revealed, and the entire substructure would have to be demolished and replaced.

The new bridge will be the same length, elevation and alignment as the old one, but will be 15 feet wide rather than 13 feet to more safely accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists.

Parking restrictions by National Gallery
Starting Friday, curb parking will be barred and the sidewalk closed for three years on the north side of Madison Drive between Third and Fourth streets NW, near the East Building of the National Gallery of Art.

The curb parking and the sidewalk on the south side, closest to the National Mall, is not affected. But this project, which involves the refurbishing and reconstruction at the National Gallery, also will close the sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue NW on the north side of the National Gallery.

By Robert Thomson  | January 24, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting, Congestion, Construction, Driving, Events, Metro, Transit  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, The week ahead  
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