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Douglass Bridge and Other Advisories

By this time next week, the Frederick Douglass Bridge will be closed for the summer, and drivers who normally use South Capitol Street as their commuting route will be looking for alternatives. MTA and Metro buses that use the bridge also will be diverted to other routes. Some buses will make special stops at Metrorail stations on the east side of the Anacostia River for passengers who want to take the train the rest of the way downtown.

The bridge shutdown is scheduled to begin before the Friday morning rush on July 6 and could continue through August, although the District has offered financial incentives to the contractor to finish early. Drivers on I-295 will be diverted north to the 11th Street Bridge.

The District has paved an extra lane on the northbound highway before the bridge to handle some extra traffic, but you still should expect extra congestion. The District estimates that the shutdown will add 20 minutes to the morning's inbound commute and 20 to 30 minutes to the afternoon's outbound commute.

As you look for alternative routes, don't forget that the District just changed the morning commute pattern on Constitution Avenue NE. It used to be a two-lane, one-way street during the morning rush, but in response to neighborhood concerns about safety, the District just made it two way, all the time.

Once the shutdown starts, I'll keep a close watch on its impact and post information and advice here. It's tough to tell exactly how this will go. No one has suggested it's going to be an easy summer for commuters in this area. My main concern is whether Metro's Green Line can handle extra ridership if commuters really do follow the planners' advice and switch from cars to transit during the shutdown.

Other Advisories

Paving Projects -- The District is starting several jobs in Georgetown in July. Among them is K Street NW between 21st Street and Wisconsin Avenue. That is scheduled to begin next Friday, July 6, and to be completed by July 29. Work hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Maryland has big paving projects along I-95 in Howard County and on I-270 between Rockville and Gaithersburg, but because next week has the July 4 holiday and lots of travelers will be on the roads, the State Highway Administration doesn't plan to close any lanes between Saturday and 9 p.m. Friday.

But that won't affect the shortened up merge area from the northbound George Washington Parkway onto the Beltway's inner loop south of the American Legion Bridge. That work zone, which has created extensive congestion on the parkway and the Beltway, will be in place until the fall.

Weekend Track Work -- Metrorail will operate special shuttle train service between the Shady Grove and Twinbrook stations on the Red Line while workers replace fencing along the tracks. Passengers traveling between Shady Grove and Twinbrook should add 40 minutes of travel time because the shuttle train will operate on one track from 10 o'clock tonight to midnight Sunday. There will be shuttle buses, as well. Track maintenance also will slow trips on the Blue Line, and rail car testing will affect trips on the Green Line. You can read more details here.

Third Street Tunnel -- The Massachusetts Avenue exit ramp out of the 3rd St. tunnel will be closed this weekend for repairs. The shutdown starts at 8 p.m. Friday and is scheduled to end before the morning rush on Monday. Same thing will happen next weekend, and that should complete the repairs. Traffic will be detoured to the D Street ramp.

New Virginia Laws -- A bunch of laws take effect on Sunday, July 1 that have to do with transportation in the Commonwealth. One significantly increases the penalties for bad driving. Another allows the restoration of the red-light enforcement cameras. Also, a new law will prohibit use of cell phones by drivers under 18. Meanwhile, hybrid drivers with the proper clean fuel plates get a break: The state government extended their exemption for driving in the HOV lanes until June 30, 2008. It would have expired on Saturday.

Parking in Montgomery County -- Be sure to double check the meters and signs when parking in Bethesda, North Bethesda, Wheaton, Montgomery Hills and Silver Spring starting Sunday. There are new rules about what you have to pay and when you have to pay at some locations.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 29, 2007; 8:16 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting  
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