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The weekend and beyond

As the cherry blossoms peak, so does our traffic and transit congestion. Central Washington and Metrorail have been very crowded this week, and that's likely to continue through the weekend and next week.

Cherry Blossom Festival

See our complete guide to the 2010 festival. With streets around the Tidal Basin so crowded, Metrorail is your best bet for getting there this weekend, but consider avoiding Smithsonian Station, even though it's the closest. Other stations, such as L'Enfant Plaza, Federal Triangle and Metro Center, are within walking distance and likely to be less crowded. Try to avoid the hassle of transferring between train lines, even if it means a longer walk.

A fireworks show scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Saturday will draw a crowd to the Southwest Waterfront.

The festival continues through next weekend. The festival parade is April 10. The Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run is April 11. Metrorail will open at 5 a.m. to accommodate the race.

Whether you're a tourist or a local, the Circulator buses are a helpful way of getting around the Mall area. There is parking around Hains Point and a free shuttle to the Tidal Basin, but that's always crowded. This weekend and next, bicyclists can park free at two valet stations: Independence Avenue between 14th and 15th streets NW and the south side of the Jefferson Memorial.

For the festival, the National Park Service has changed the traffic pattern on Ohio Drive SW near the Tidal Basin to all northbound, from its intersection with East Basin Drive and Inlet Bridge up to the intersection with Independence Avenue and 23rd Street, on the south side of the Lincoln Memorial.

Baseball at Nationals Park
The Nationals play an exhibition game against the Red Sox at 4:05 p.m. Saturday and then open the regular season against the Phillies at 1:05 p.m. Monday. Both games will be very crowded. That means heavy traffic on the Southeast-Southwest Freeway and around M Street and South Capitol Street. The Green Line's Navy Yard Station, closest to the park, also will be very crowded, as will the transfer stations at L'Enfant Plaza and Gallery Place.

The Nationals Express shuttle bus from RFK Stadium has been discontinued. But the Nationals have opened a couple of economy lots. See all the transportation options on the Nationals Web site.

For the opener Monday, where President Obama is scheduled to throw the first pitch, the Nationals are urging fans to arrive extra early, both because of crowding and because of the extra security at the gates.

Metrorail weekend work
Metro won't be working on the rails this weekend or next because of the blossom festival crowds. Consult Metro's Trip Planner as you research how to get around by transit.

Friday on MARC
CSX has issued heat orders from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday. Trains on the Brunswick and Camden lines will operate 20 mph below normal speed but not less than 40 mph. Delays can range from 10 to 15 minutes, MARC says. (The Capital Weather Gang predicts a pretty decent weekend.) The heat restrictions are a response to the swing in temperatures from night to afternoon, which can cause rails to warp.

I-66 widening
Watch for the new traffic pattern in the westbound lanes between Manassas and Gainesville. The widening is done on that side, and drivers now have four lanes (three regular and one HOV). New overhead signs guide drivers.

Kenilworth Avenue/Eastern Avenue

The District Department of Transportation plans to continue removing beams Friday night from the Eastern Avenue Bridge over Kenilworth Avenue NE. Lanes will be closed on both sides of Kenilworth. Traffic delays are very likely, and drivers should use other routes if at all possible.

From 7 p.m. Friday through 9 a.m. Saturday, all of the main lanes on the northbound and southbound sides of 295 (Kenilworth Avenue) will be closed. All traffic will be diverted to the service roads at the last exit ramp before the Eastern Avenue Bridge and then back out onto Kenilworth at the first on-ramp beyond the construction.

Some alternatives to reaching the Capital Beltway:
-- I-395 to 50 East (New York Avenue)
-- Whitney Young Memorial Bridge/East Capitol Street/Central Avenue
-- Sousa Bridge/Pennsylvania Avenue
-- South Capitol Street/Douglass Bridge/Suitland Parkway
-- 11th Street Bridges/I-295 southbound

11th Street paving
DDOT plans to repave 11th Street NW from L to O streets starting at 7 p.m. Friday. The work will begin at the intersection of 11th Street and Massachusetts Avenue. It should be done by 5 a.m. Saturday

The past few nights, there's been a lot of traffic through that area, as well as on many other nearby streets. This would be a good night to clear the area early.

The paving of the rest of 11th Street between L and O will be done next week. Crews are scheduled to work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Permanent line striping will be done late next week or the week after.

DDOT says two-way traffic will be maintained at all times, but pay attention to the signs and be prepared for lane shifts.

New Hampshire Avenue paving
This coming week, the Maryland State Highway Administration will start a resurfacing project along New Hampshire Avenue between the District line and East West Highway in Takoma Park. All the work should be done by spring 2011.

Drivers will encounter single-lane closings along northbound New Hampshire weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. On the southbound side, the hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. When the work reaches the grinding and resurfacing phase, there will be double lane closings overnight Sunday through Thursday between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

By Robert Thomson  |  April 2, 2010; 1:02 PM ET
Categories:  Advisories  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, The weekend and beyond  
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Next: Metrorail sets ridership record


Could you PLEASE explain what has been causing the gridlock in downtown DC the last two evenings? I understand traffic around the cherry blossoms, but is that responsible for absolute gridlock going past 7:30 pm on northbound streets through downtown? If so, please explain. I saw the traffic was bad when I left work at 5:30 pm, but thought it would clear out by the time I went to a part at 7 pm. Departed my Eastern Market apartment at 6:45 pm and didn't arrive to south of Dupont until 7:30. What was going on? None of the traffic reports on the radio were saying anything ... had I known, I would have taken metro (I drove because it is usually faster to get home that way at night when our dear metro system only runs trains every 20 minutes apart ... would I always metro if I train headways would be less at night? You betcha. Instead, I was part of the problem.)

Posted by: DCLiz | April 2, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: For the past few nights, the traffic volume around the Tidal Basin has slowed the evening drive tremendously in central Washington. I've seen it, and I've heard Bob Marbourg talking about it on his WTOP radio traffic reports.

It's just pure gridlock. Drivers enter the intersections when there's no room ahead of them. Then the light turns red on them, and the drivers on the cross street can't get through. The District has traffic control officers, but not enough of them for the number of intersections getting jammed up.

I expect it will be bad next week, as well. Meanwhile, Metrorail also has been extra crowded. Despite that, I'd still take Metrorail over a drive from Eastern Market to Dupont Circle under the current traffic conditions.

Posted by: Dr_Gridlock | April 2, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Thanks! I haven't seen it this bad outside of events like Snowpocolypse & Christmas Tree lightings. I'll know to take metro now!

Posted by: DCLiz | April 2, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Come on people. Your cars have bumpers: USE THEM.

If the police are going to abdicate their responsibilities, we can only hope for the deterrent effect of some real road rage.

Posted by: jiji1 | April 2, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

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