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The Weekend and Beyond

Here's some advice about your weekend and holiday travels, as well as some inauguration travel planning.

Weekend on Metro
Metrorail is done with its weekend track maintenance work for the rest of the years, so there aren't any travel delays on the schedule for this weekend.

Holiday Planning Notes
If you're leaving on a long holiday trip and plan to use your E-ZPass toll transponder, check your account to make sure it has enough money to cover the trip.

Transportation departments generally suspend their road projects right around the holidays. At the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, a crucial passageway for many holiday travelers, there will be no lane closures for construction on the Virginia side from noon Wednesday until 9:30 a.m. Dec. 29. Work will again be suspended from noon Dec. 31 until 9:30 a.m. Jan. 5.

On the Maryland side, there will be no lane closures from noon Wednesday until 9 a.m. Dec. 29, and work again will be suspended from noon Dec. 31 until 9 a.m. Jan. 5.

Telegraph Road Closure
While the interstate is open, Telegraph Road will continue to be closed to vehicles and pedestrians between Huntington Avenue and North Kings Highway from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday night through Wednesday morning, and again on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 for ramp bridge construction.

Contractors will be erecting and connecting steel beams for the second of two bridges over Telegraph Road as part of ramps that will eventually carry traffic from the Capital Beltway's outer loop to North Kings Highway and Huntington Avenue.

Northbound traffic will be detoured via North Kings Highway to Route 1 to Huntington Avenue and back to Telegraph Road. Southbound traffic will be detoured via Huntington Avenue to Route 1 to North Kings Highway and back to Telegraph Road.

I-95 Lane Shifts
For those of you heading northeast for the holidays, watch for this on the way back: Southbound Interstate 95 lanes north of Baltimore have been shifted as part of the Express Toll Lanes project.

This involves a three-mile stretch of southbound I-95 between Campbell and Rossville boulevards. Pay attention to the overhead roadway signs and new lane markings. Concrete barriers, with openings for construction equipment, will separate traffic from the work area to the left.

Delaware Highway Alerts
Northeast-bound holiday drivers often complain about the heavy traffic through Delaware. To get the latest information about local conditions, tune your car radio to 1380 AM. You can hear those same messages on the Delaware Department of Transportation Web site, at www.deldot.gov.

Ride On Christmas Eve
The Montgomery County bus service announced that it will limit late evening service on Dec. 24. Trips scheduled to depart from the terminal at 10:01 p.m. or later will not operate.

New Year's Eve
Several readers said they were concerned about whether Metrorail would once again be open late for the New Year's celebrations. Answer: Yes, the trains will be running until 2 a.m. on the last night of the year.

One reader noted that the Trip Planner calculator on Metro's Web site at indicated that there was no rail service during those early morning hours. Trip Planner doesn't reflect either service disruptions or adjusted schedules for special circumstances.

Keep that in mind when looking ahead to Inauguration Day, though I'm hoping that the transit authority will be able to adjust the calculator for Jan. 20 to accurately reflect the special schedules and fares.

Dulles Rail Project
The work that drivers see along Route 123 in Tysons Corner is in preparation for construction of the new Metrorail line. Land bounded by International Drive and Tysons Boulevard and by Route 123 and Galleria Place will be cleared of vegetation so construction trailers can be positioned and utility lines relocated.

This also will become the eastern side of a 2,100-foot train tunnel under the intersection of Routes 7 and 123. This area is the high point of Fairfax County. Trains can't go up one side and down the other. The grade would be too steep. That's why the tunnel is part of the plan. This isn't a change: It's not the full tunnel under Tysons that many people would have preferred for the rail line.

SoberRide Holiday Campaign
The drunk-driving prevention campaign operated by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program has begun another effort to keep people alive through the holidays.

If you've been over served, SoberRide will help you get home from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each evening through Jan. 1. Residents of the Washington metropolitan area who are 21 and older can call the toll-free SoberRide phone number 1-800-200-TAXI and receive a safe ride home in a cab at no-cost up to a $50 fare. (After that, you pay.)

Inauguration Trains
MARC and VRE have launched reservations programs for Inauguration Day. Each system will charge $25 per round-trip ticket.

For MARC tickets, go to www.commuterdirect.com starting Saturday. There will be a limit of 25 tickets per transaction. All orders will be shipped out beginning Jan. 6 and should be received no later than Jan. 9.

VRE is using a mail-order program to supply tickets. The order form, which can be downloaded from VRE's Web site at www.vre.org, requires riders to list three choices for the northbound and southbound trains from a special schedule. Tickets will be mailed by Jan. 9. Groups of 25 or more must call 703-838-5415.

By Robert Thomson  |  December 19, 2008; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  Advisories  
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Next: Drive Carefully on a Wet, Foggy Getaway Day

Comments

A tip for E-ZPass: If your balance is low and you're making a long trip that might deplete it, you can make a one-time payment (I know Virginia, at least, allows this) via the Internet to top up your account enough to allow you to make the full drive. This can be important because the auto-replenishment does not necessarily occur immediately when you drop below the replenishment threshold.

Posted by: 1995hoo | December 19, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, I've gone pretty deep into the red on my E-ZPass account balance from long trips, and so long as you re-plenish with a credit card, you can do this. If you go very deep into the red, expect them to up your replenishment amount automatically. I used to have a $25 replenishment amount, but after taking a few trips to NYC and going deep into the red, they upped it to $50.

Speaking of negative balances, I have always been intrigued by the fact that Metro allows you to go negative on SmarTrip cards, and that Metro does not require a minimum of $1.35 on your SmarTrip card to enter a station (if you try to enter on a regular farecard with less than $1.35, it is rejected and you are sent to the farecard machine to trade it in). So I could theoretically have a $0.05 balance on my SmarTrip card, enter at Woodley park, ride to Shady Grove during rush hour, have a negative balance of $4.45, and toss the card in the trash. I wonder how many inactive SmarTrip cards have negative balances from people who have done this? I wonder what happens when the price of the SmarTrip card is less than the maximum fare (give it one or 2 more fare increases, and that could happen).

Posted by: thetan | December 22, 2008 12:28 AM | Report abuse

That's interesting on E-ZPass. I had no idea you could do that. I have two E-ZPasses (one for each car), so on my way north this summer I brought them both and swapped them after exiting the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Note that on the SmarTrip card you CAN'T exit a WMATA parking facility with a negative balance. You used to be able to do this, but they realized that they were losing money to people doing what you describe. I am rather surprised that they never added SmarTrip readers to the Addfare machines to close the loophole you mention, though.

When I got my SmarTrip card (way back in 1999 on the first day they were generally available) I recall them saying that you have to have the minimum fare on your card to enter the system (e.g., to enter at Metro Center you'd have to have enough to go at least one stop). When did that change?

Posted by: 1995hoo | December 22, 2008 8:22 AM | Report abuse

BTW, for folks having to go through Delaware this week, it took our charter bus half an hour to get through the Delaware Turnpike tollbooth at around 5:00 Saturday night on the way home from the Caps-Flyers nightmare. Astounding to me to see how many people were not using E-ZPass. Expect it to be worse on Wednesday!

Posted by: 1995hoo | December 22, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Not sure when the minimum requirement was suspended, but I have entered Woodley Park station with only $1.25 on my card, recently in fact.

And you are right, the ONLY reason they allow negative balances on SmarTrip is because Addfare machines don't have SmarTrip readers. Obviously, with parking this is not an issue since it is not a closed system.

Posted by: thetan | December 22, 2008 10:46 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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