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Posted at 11:03 AM ET, 03/11/2011

Rail work, street closings & blasting

By Robert Thomson

The weekend beyond

Travelers will find Friday and the weekend's weather semi-arid compared to the Thursday deluge, and mild temperatures will encourage spring-like activity. The start of the Cherry Blossom Festival is still two weeks away, but you could shake off the winter blues at the District's St. Patrick's Day parade on Sunday. Daylight Saving Time starts Sunday morning, but it's still winter at the Verizon Center, where the Capitals play hockey with the Hurricanes on Friday night and the Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon. Here are some of the obstacles that could come between you and your destinations this weekend and next week.

Metro weekend delays

Yet again, there will be a major disruption in Metro service on a weekend. Last weekend, the eastern side of the Orange Line was shut. This weekend, and the following weekend, the impact is on the western side of theline. There will be no train service between East Falls Church and West Falls Church stations from 10 o'clock tonight through the rail system's midnight closing on Sunday. The pattern will repeat March 18-20.

These shutdowns clear room for work that will eventually link the Orange Line with the Dulles Metrorail line. During the work, both stations will remain open, and Metro will operate free shuttle buses between them, to link the two segments of the Orange Line. But this will add half an hour to a journey between the stations.

At East Falls Church, riders will find the shuttles at bus bays C and D. At West Falls Church, they will be found at the bus loop outside the Kiss & Ride by the south entrance to the station.

While that's the major disruption for the weekend, there will be plenty delays in other parts of the system for maintenance.

Blue/Orange Line: From 10 o'clock Friday through the midnight close on Sunday, Blue and Orange Line trains will share a track between Federal Center SW and Eastern Market. Metro workers will be installing the cables that eventually will expand cellphone service in the underground part of the train system. Add about 20 minutes to your normal travel time.

Blue Line: From 10 p.m., Friday through the Sunday closing, Blue Line trains will share one track between Stadium-Armory and Addison Road. Along those tracks, workers will be repairing the slabs underneath the rails, eventually contributing to a smoother ride. Add about 20 minutes to normal travel time.

Yellow Line: During the same time period, Yellow Line trains will share a track between Pentagon City and L'Enfant Plaza. Workers will be welding new rails and also installing the cables to improve cellphone coverage. Add 20 minutes to normal travel time through the work zone. The Yellow Line trains will be operating only between Huntington and Mount Vernon Square during the weekend. At off-peak hours, they would normally continue north to Fort Totten.

Red Line: This weekend and next, trains will share a track between Forest Glen and Glenmont while workers replace rail switches outside the Wheaton Station. On the other side of the line, trains will be sharing a track between Twinbrook and Grosvenor while workers repair the platform at the White Flint Station.

On both weekends, Red Line trains will leave the ends of the line about every 26 minutes. From 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., service will be more frequent between Grosvenor and Silver Spring. In that zone, trains will operate about every 13 minutes.

Daylight Saving and Metro

Don't miss your last train Sunday morning. When your clock springs forward one hour at 2 a.m. Sunday, so does Metro's, which means it's closing time for Metrorail. The train system always shuts when the clocks say 3 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

St. Patrick's Day race/parade

The parade starts at noon, but there's a race at 9 a.m. that also will lead to street closings along the course that should be reopened by noon. Here's the course, from the starting line on Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 12th and 13th streets: East on Pennsylvania Avenue, left on Constitution Avenue, left on Louisiana Avenue, right on D Street NE, left on First Street NE, U-turn at the entrance to the parking lot between C and D Streets NE, north on First Street NE, left on D Street NE, right on Constitution Avenue NW, left on Third Street NW, left on Independence Avenue SW, right on Washington Avenue SW, right on Second Street SW, right on E Street SW, right on Third Street SW, left on Independence Avenue SW, U-turn east of Seventh Street SW, east on Independence Avenue SW, left on Third Street SW, left on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, left on 10th Street NW, U-turn at mid-block, left on Pennsylvania NW and the race ends.

Then the parade starts at noon, proceeding westbound on Constitution Avenue NW from Seventh to 17th streets. Seventh Street will be closed between Constitution and Independence avenues from about 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Streets leading to Constitution Avenue also will also be closed during this time. See a map.

Tolling cuts ICC traffic

The effect of the new tolls was obvious when two weeks of free rides on the Intercounty Connector ended Monday. There were fewer drivers on the new Maryland highway at rush hours and less congestion around the entrances and exits. Not so many drivers were willing to use it for the drive between Shady Grove and Olney once they had to pay the peak period toll of $1.45.

Kelly Melhem, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority, which operates the ICC, said about 8,500 vehicles used the connector on Monday. During the free test-drive period that started Feb. 23, an average of about 30,000 vehicles traveled the highway on weekdays.

On Tuesday, Mark Berman and I did our own test drive, to see how a commuter might use the connector for a morning trip from Gaithersburg to the D.C. line at Georgia Avenue. Mark, who gives you the traffic news on the blog most mornings, took the ICC to see if it saved time, while I drove I-270 and the Capital Beltway. Look for the results on Sunday's Commuter page in The Post's Metro section. I'm not saying who got there first, but refresh your memories about the tortoise and the hare.

Union Station entrance closing

The Union Station entrance at Massachusetts Avenue NE will close at 8 p.m. this Sunday and next, so that Metro can fix the station manager's kiosk on the mezzanine. The entrance will reopen at 5 a.m. on each of the next two Mondays. During the work, the entrance at First Street NE will remain open.

Controlled blasting at Rosslyn

Arlington County's construction of a new entrance at the Rosslyn Metrorail station on North Moore Street has reached the point where the contractor, Clark Construction, has excavated to a depth of over 20 feet and will soon hit bedrock, requiring some controlled blasting to continue to the final depth of more than 100 feet. This is scheduled to start this month and continue for a few months between 1 and 5 a.m. Later this year, the blasting also will occur during daytime hours. The daytime blasting will not require the closing of North Moore Street and its sidewalks, but the night action will.

When the project is done in 2012, the station will have three new high-speed elevators at the station.

17th Street levee

During my online chat on Monday, a traveler asked about this project: In mid-April, the National Park Service plans to begin work on the new 17th Street NW levee, which the park service says will reduce the risk of river flooding in downtown Washington.

Construction will include temporary closings on both sides of 17th Street just south of Constitution Avenue. At least one lane in each direction will be kept open at all times, but the park service is advising drivers to consider alternatives, including Third, Fourth, Seventh, 14th and 15th streets, and the Third Street and the Ninth Street tunnels. Lane restrictions are scheduled to last through late summer, and construction will end in early winter.

Constitution Avenue project

Drivers in that same area will want to know about this one: The park service and the Federal Highway Administration are preparing to begin reconstruction of Constitution Avenue from 15th Street to 23rd Street NW, the area between the Ellipse and the new Institute of Peace building.

Work will include re-constructing sections of roadway, replacement of the storm drainage system, granite curb installation, lighting replacement and new sidewalks on Constitution Avenue. Watch for variable message boards that will announce lane closings.

Beltway lane closings in Tysons

Saturday nights are the only ones when drivers will not find three lanes of the Capital Beltway's inner loop shut at Route 123 in Tysons Corner. This clears a safe work zone for construction of the bridge that will take the new Metrorail line over the Beltway. Sunday through Friday nights, crews begin to shut down some lanes as early as 9:30 p.m. At 11 p.m., the three lanes are shut, and so are the inner loop ramps to and from Route 123. Beltway drivers can reconnect with Route 123 by continuing north to the Georgetown Pike exit and looping back on the Beltway. The lanes reopen by 5 a.m.

Beltway at I-66

Also on the western side of the Beltway, overnight drivers will encounter complete closings of the outer loop at I-66 Monday through Thursday. At 9:30 p.m., crews working on the High Occupancy Toll lane project will close all lanes to place steel bridge beams over the Beltway. The I-66 westbound ramp to the outer loop (I-495 south) and the left I-66 eastbound HOV ramp to the Beltway will also be closed overnights.

Outer loop raffic will be detoured to I-66 west, to Exit 62 (Nutley Street) and follow signs to I-66 east back to the Beltway. The detour may add 15 to 20 minutes to a trip during the peak overnight hours between 10 p.m. and midnight. All lanes will reopen by 5 a.m.

Metrobus detours
Metrobuses will detour several routes this weekend, because of construction and special events.

Routes 91, 92 and 93 will detour from 7 a.m. Saturday to noon Sunday around Eighth Street NE between H and G streets to avoid a construction zone.

Routes 4B 5A and 38B will detour from 7 to 11 a.m.,Saturday around Wilson Boulevard between North Veitch Street and North Court House Road in Arlington, because of a race.

Routes 32, 34, 36, 54, 64, 70, 96, P6, S2, S4 and V8 will detour from 5 a.m. to noon Sunday around Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 12th and 14th streets for the St. Patrick's Day 8k Race.

Routes 5A, 32, 34, 36, 54, 64, 70, 96, P6, S2, S4 and V8 will detour from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday around Constitution Avenue NW between Third and 17th streets. This is for the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

11th Street Bridge
The District Department of Transportation plans to close the two left lanes of the outbound 11th Street Bridge from midnight to 5 a.m. Saturday for construction activity related to the new bridge spans rising between the two old ones on the Anacostia River.
The two right lanes on the outbound bridge will remain open to traffic.

[This post has been updated.]

By Robert Thomson  | March 11, 2011; 11:03 AM ET
Categories:  Highways, Metro, Northern Virginia, Orange Line, Silver Line, Tysons Corner  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, Dulles Metrorail, Dulles Rail, Intercounty Connector, Tysons Corner, wmata  
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