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The weekend and beyond

The Cherry Blossom Festival begins this weekend in Washington, but the big crowd-drawing events won't begin till the following weekend. The blooming period is forecast to start this weekend, peaking April 1 through April 4.

Blossom guide
See our Commuter page guide to visiting the blossoms, or just getting around the crowds. Note the peak blossom time has moved up since we published the page. We also have a map showing parking areas, Metro stations and Circulator bus routes.

A popular opening event will be Saturday's Kite Festival on the Washington Monument grounds.

The Capital Weather Gang predicts a cool weekend, with sun on Saturday and some clouds and showers moving in Sunday.

Metro's weekend
Red Line riders between Friendship Heights and Medical Center should add at least 30 minutes to their travel time from 8 p.m. Friday through the midnight close Sunday while Metro replaces 1,600 feet of rail, and 500 to 600 rail fasteners that stabilize the outbound track.

To keep more trains running into downtown Washington, every other Red Line train traveling toward Shady Grove will terminate at Friendship Heights and head back toward Glenmont.

Blue Line riders between the Foggy Bottom and Arlington Cemetery and Orange Line riders between Foggy Bottom and Court House should add at least 30 minutes to their travel time because of an emergency exercise drill at Rosslyn Station. Trains will share one track between these locations from 11 p.m. to the 3 a.m. closing on Sunday.

Passengers using Rosslyn Station will see police, fire and emergency response vehicles, first responders and volunteer "victims" near the station between 11 p.m. Saturday and 5 a.m. Sunday.

Chain Bridge closing
The Potomac River crossing, which was closed this past weekend, is scheduled to shut completely again this weekend, weather permitting, as part of the rehabilitation that began last spring. Workers will be fixing the bridge deck, its steel beams and the approaches.

The closing is set to begin at 8 p.m. Friday and continue to 5 a.m. Monday. This will be a complete shutdown: no vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians.

14th Street NW
The District Department of Transportation plans to begin a three-week paving project in Columbia Heights on Friday, March 26. It will start in the center lanes on northbound 14th Street from Park Road to Monroe Street NW.

Construction crews will begin placing concrete traffic barriers after 9 a.m. to cordon off the work area. A single lane of traffic will be maintained at all times, in both directions. Motorists should be aware of transitions and lane changes. The Metrobus stop at Park Road and 14th Street will be relocated temporarily to north of Monroe Street.

Arlington detour
Northbound George Mason Drive is scheduled to close from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 27, at North 15th Street. Traffic will be detoured around the area via North 15th to Edison Street to North 16th Street back to George Mason Drive. Southbound George Mason Drive will have one lane open for through traffic and the left turn lane will be open.

National Walk for Epilepsy
The walk is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 27, and end around noon. The start line will be the gravel path between 12th and 14th streets NW near Jefferson Drive on the National Mall. See a map of the route.

The event will require Metro to detour some buses from 8:15 to 11 a.m. Saturday. Metrobus routes 32, 34, 36, 52, 54, 70, P6, and V8 will be rerouted because the event will close the Mall from 7th to 14th streets between Constitution and Independence avenues.

Intercounty Connector
A new traffic pattern will affect motorists using the Shady Grove Road/Interstate 370 interchange in western Montgomery County. Beginning Saturday afternoon, drivers heading west on Shady Grove Road toward westbound I-370 will make a left at a new traffic signal.

They will merge with the eastbound Shady Grove Road drivers heading for I-370 on a new ramp. Variable message signs are in place to alert motorists to the new traffic pattern. Lane closings on both Shady Grove Road and I-370 will begin about 8 a.m. Saturday through the afternoon until the new traffic pattern is in place.

As an alternate route for motorists on west/southbound Shady Grove Road currently using I-370 to get to I-270, motorists may continue on Shady Grove Road beyond I-370 and turn right onto MD 355 (Frederick Road).

Drivers heading for I-270 south traveling from points north could consider MD Route 118 (Germantown Road), Middlebrook Road or MD Route 124 (Montgomery Village Avenue/Quince Orchard Road) to reach I-270 and avoid Shady Grove Road.

The traffic switch allows crews to continue bridge construction within the I-370/Shady Grove Road interchange.

I-66 widening
The Virginia Department of Transportation hoped to have the new four-lane configuration between Manassas and Gainesville in place Thursday afternoon, but the recent heavy rains delayed the preparations slightly. The new target for the opening is early next week.

Drivers will then have three regular lanes and one HOV lane from the 234 Bypass exit (Exit 44) through the Route 29 Gainesville exit (Exit 43).

By Robert Thomson  |  March 26, 2010; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Commuting , Congestion , Construction , Driving , Events , Metro , transit  | Tags: Cherry Blossom Festival, Dr. Gridlock  
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I think you may be mistaken about Metro not conducting any track work on this busy weekend - according to their website, they will be single tracking all weekend between Friendship Heights and Medical Center, which is a pretty long distance, which likely means extensive delays and extreme overcrowding on that side of the Red Line. I can only hope they will run all eight-car trains at the very least, but I somehow doubt they'd do anything that would make that much sense.

Posted by: Tybsnowman | March 26, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Eight car trains cost marginally more to operate. You'll probably get fours.


Posted by: corrections | March 26, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Tybsnowman, thank you, I just made the fix on Metro's weekend.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | March 26, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Yea this is going to be a disaster...last weekend it took over an hour to go from Shady Grove to Farragut North. This trip normally takes about 30 minutes. On big event weekends like this weekend the trains are full by the time the train makes it to Grosvenor-Strathmore. With the track maintenance this just isn't going to go well!

Posted by: Razor04 | March 26, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Ugh the redline is going to be a disaster this weekend...again. Will we ever have a weekend without track work?

For those traveling on the Red Line anywhere between Rockville and Medical Center here is my suggestion: Take the Ride-On 46. I took the 46 on Sunday last weekend from Rockville all the way to Medical Center and it got me there 20 minutes before the train would have if I had waited.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | March 26, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Also, On Sundays the Ride on 46 runs between Shady Grove Metro and Medical Center Metro.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | March 26, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Late Sunday morning, it took one hour and fourty-five minutes to travel from Shady Grove to Friendship Heights on the metro train. If anyone tries to take the red line to the Cherry Blossom events, they'll need a sandwich, a pillow, Dramamine, and a very large book. It's going to be along flight, folks!

Posted by: blackforestcherry | March 26, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Dr. G - topic for a future column: the Cabin John Parkway. A major thoroughfare, heavily used in both rush hours, and effective - MD beltway to Georgetown in about 12 minutes. But, the maintenance on it is inconsistent and at times leaves the road with some dangerous aspects. Currently, there are trees and branches that were cut back from the snowstorms, but not cleaned up. If a driver hits one of these wrong it's going through the windshield to cause a gruesome situation. Another issue is huge areas of standing water that need to be handled with new drainage and grading of the road. Still another issue is the huge ruts and potholes that are present just past the Kennedy Center as one heads towards the tidal basin. These are also a hazard as drivers swerve to avoid the ruts, and also navigate the curves and narrow lanes.

Posted by: DontGetIt | March 26, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

The Red Line mess will cause further strain since the Capitals have a home game at 3:00 Sunday afternoon.

Posted by: 1995hoo | March 26, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

This further vindicates my intention to drive to King Street Metro and take the Yellow Line to the game, in large part so we can enjoy a pizza in Old Town after the game...

Posted by: ValleyCaps | March 26, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I drive downtown for games (on weekdays, in part because I pick up Ms1995hoo at her office en route). Gets me home a lot faster than the Metro does.

Posted by: 1995hoo | March 26, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Okay, can someone please explain to me what exactly they're doing on the Red Line in that area that causes Metro to single-track every day? EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Seriously, it's something that serious that they have to work on the tracks every day?

Posted by: pikamander007 | March 26, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

pikamander007? Safety is not one of your concerns?

Posted by: critter69 | March 27, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

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