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D.C. area travel challenges for Friday

Airports; Amtrak cancellations; Capital Weather Gang; D.C. snow emergency; Metrorail and Metrobus; Plowing plans; Snow removal; Watch traffic conditions live

These are some of the issues that drivers and transit users will confront on what's likely to be a very unusual travel day in the Washington area.

The landscape: If your last work day was Tuesday, or perhaps even last Friday, things won't look the same. That's likely to affect your trip whether you're driving on I-66 or the Beltway, or parking at Branch Avenue or waiting at a VRE station. There are mountains of hardened snow everywhere. Many streets and some patches of highway lanes will be covered in snow or hard slush. Views will be obscured. Take it easy.

Driving: Many more people will be back at work today, and many won't expect the trip to be any different. Expect the unexpected. For example, when you approach a highway merge, and look over your left shoulder for oncoming traffic, you may be looking at a big pile of snow. When you look to your right, you may see that the merge lane is under hardened slush, so you'll have to merge directly into a travel lane. The shoulders may also be under snow and unusable.

If you drive into the District on one of the commuter routes with reversible rush-hour lanes, you may not have access to all the lanes you are used to having because those routes have not been cleared curb to curb. Obey the lane indicators -- the red X's and the green arrows -- and don't assume that because a green arrow lane is blocked that you can take an X lane.

The HOV rules also are the same as always on a weekday.

Transit: Many of the schedules are very complicated as we stagger back toward regular service. See the full list of transit services here. But there are a couple of challenges I'd like to spotlight.

The platforms will be more crowded and the trains will be running less frequently. Trains will operate at 20-minute to 25-minute intervals above ground and 10-minute to 15-minute intervals below ground. Above ground, they'll be traveling at a maximum speed of 35 mph.

At least at the start of the day, the western side of the Orange and Red lines will still be shut. The first open station on the Orange Line will be Ballston. The first open station on the Red Line will be Medical Center.

Metrobus is opening with a relative handful of routes, mostly serving the District, and will build up from there as road conditions allow. Many bus stops and shelters still are covered in snow. And if the stops aren't, then there may be a wall of hardened snow separating the passengers from the lane where the bus is going to stop.

Metro recommends using the Next Bus system to get a clue as to when the next arrival will occur. It's worth a try, but many travelers say that it's sometimes wildly off. The most likely thing to throw it off is traffic congestion approaching your stop. So if you look up the road and see heavy traffic, Next Bus is going to be less reliable. If traffic is moving fine, the system will give a more accurate prediction.

Walking: It will be a difficult day for pedestrians in many areas. Even where the sidewalks are clear, you're likely to encounter a big pile of hardened snow where you want to cross. Watch out for passing vehicles flinging slush at you. If you must walk in the streets, make sure you're walking against the direction of traffic, so you can see oncoming cars. Be very careful anyway, because you may find that your only escape route is over a mountain of snow.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 12, 2010; 4:00 AM ET
Categories:  Driving , Metro , Weather , transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, snowstorm, tips for travelers  
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Comments

Note many downtown sidewalks are unshoveled. Curb cuts into the street are mounds of snow. Hotels seem to be the worst offenders. Two thirds of Georgia Avenue sidewalks are unshoveled and people are walking in the street, slowing traffic etc. Drivers are still driving aggressively and with no regard for one another or pedestrians. Commuting is generally going to suck today. A sad, sad commentary on the state of the city, its people, the people of the region, and more. Thanks to those businesses and homeowners who did shovel out though, you are islands in the crapulence.

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | February 12, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Hey, OPM, what a bone head decision to make Friday a Federal work day! Y'all are idiots.

Posted by: nuke41 | February 12, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

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