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Weekend Wakeup: Beltway express lanes to open

David Dildine, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – All eyes will be on the Beltway this weekend. The toll gantries have been activated, the lines have been striped and the 495 Express Lanes are ready for business.

By the time D.C. area residents wake up Saturday morning, four additional lanes will be open between Braddock Road and the Dulles Toll Road. The lanes rely on dynamic tolling, with weekend tolls expected to range between one and two dollars. VDOT and Transurban, the operator of the Express Lanes, are reminding drivers that the exact cost will depend on the distance they travel and the amount of traffic using the lanes during their trip. Drivers will need an E-Z Pass or E-Z Pass Flex to use the lanes, which will be tolled 24 hours a day, even on holidays.

Even though the 495 Express Lanes will be opening this weekend, the project is not complete. Although it does appear that the dreaded “triple-lane” and “total temporary closures” are over, a few on- and off-ramp closures are scheduled on Sunday night at the Dulles Toll Road, Route 7 and Route 50. Crews will be focusing on what they call “punch list items” which are touch-ups and finalizations of the new infrastructure.

The biggest project on the Maryland portion of the Beltway, the Northwest Branch Bridge Rehabilitation, is also nearing an end. On Friday and Saturday night overnight paving will block multiple lanes in both directions between University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue, beginning at 9 p.m.

In Northeast D.C., inbound New York Ave will be reduced to a single lane over the railroad bridge between Penn Street and Florida Avenue. The work will take place on Saturday between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The southbound Baltimore-Washington Parkway/Route 295 will be closed for a few hours early Saturday morning at West Nursery Road for overhead sign installation.

Metro Forward

On Metrorail, the six-year-long “Metro Forward” operation continues. There will not be any station closures this weekend, but rail work zones will necessitate single-tracking on the Red, Orange, Yellow and Blue lines.

On the Red Line, trains will single-track between the Takoma and Forest Glen stations. As usual, track work begins at 10 p.m. on Friday night and lasts through closing on Sunday.

In Falls Church, crews continue to test the Silver Line’s rail connection to the Orange Line both on Friday night and during the day on Sunday. During the testing, inbound and outbound trains will share tracks on the Orange Line between the East Falls Church and West Falls Church stations. Orange Line trains will run on a normal schedule Saturday.

On the Yellow and Blue lines, trains will single-track between Pentagon City and National Airport on Saturday, but will otherwise run on a normal weekend schedule Friday night and Sunday.

Also on the Blue Line, trains will single-track between the Stadium-Armory and Addison Road stations. This may inconvenience those headed to RFK Stadium for the DC United Conference Championship. Metro advises its customers to give themselves an extra 15 to 20 minutes of additional travel time.

Sports

Both the Washington Redskins and DC United have big home games on Sunday, which may lead to heavy evening traffic near these venues when the games let out. While early-open doors and tailgating help to diffuse the rush of pre-game traffic, when the game clock runs out thousands of fans will leave at once, meaning post-game traffic may be worse than crowds flocking to the game.

The Redskins face off against the Eagles at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Delays are likely on the Capital Beltway before kickoff and on the routes away from FedEx Field in Landover after 4 p.m. after the game. Authorities have become very good at facilitating the flow of traffic before and after Redskins games. Look for extra police presence on the Beltway during the afternoon and evening.

An increase in volume may be detectable as far north as the Laurel exits on both the BW Parkway and I-95. For those driving to the game on the Beltway, Route 214/Central Ave (#15) also leads to the parking lots. The popularity of Route 202/Landover Road and Arena Drive among Redskins fans tend to make these exit points slower options.

At RFK Stadium, DC United plays in their Eastern Conference Championship against the Houston Dynamo at 4 p.m. This is United’s first appearance in the Championship since 2006 and big crowds are expected. The stadium’s parking lots open four hours before match time.

Fans headed to the stadium will want to be aware of DDOT’s long-term 11th Street Bridge project and the implications it may have on pre- and post-game travel. Phase 2 of the project is now underway and a portion of the Southeast Freeway will eventually be downgraded to a boulevard. Although fans headed to the stadium via I-395 (the Southeast/Southwest Freeway) will be able to access Lot 8 from the freeway, they will not be able to exit the stadium the same way they came in.

DDOT has permanently reduced the westbound lanes from Barney Circle to a single- lane condition and there is no longer direct access to I-395 from RFK and Lot 8. Post-game traffic headed for Virginia or points west should use the outbound East Capitol Street Bridge (Whitney Young Bridge) over the Anacostia River, then bear right onto D.C. 295 southbound.

DDOT normally blocks the right lane of two on D.C. 295 before the on-ramp from East Capitol Street to accommodate the large amount of outbound volume following events at RFK Stadium. Traffic can either head back to the Southeast Freeway by using the new southbound ramp to the inbound 11th Street Bridge or proceed south on I-295 toward the Beltway and Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Events

Christmas on the Potomac and the Gaylord National’s ICE! kick off Saturday with a celebration at National Harbor. The event will feature fireworks, musical performances, an indoor snowfall and a laser light show. Delays are possible on National Harbor Drive into the parking areas, but it is unlikely this will spill back onto the Beltway.

On Saturday morning, numerous Turkey Trots will be out and about, running and walking for charity in places throughout the metro area.

In Washington, a popular 5K run/walk will begin near Freedom Plaza around 8:30 a.m. The Cranberry Crawl 5K/10K Run and Race Walk will take place in Potomac Park around the same time. The participants are expected to remain on sidewalks. No street closures are scheduled at this time.

A Keystone Pipeline demonstration will encircle the White House on Sunday between 3 and 4 p.m. This activity may progress onto the north side of Constitution Ave. Brief delays are possible but the demonstrators are not expected to have a major impact on traffic.

The Alexandria Film Festival will take place throughout the weekend. It features screenings throughout the City of Alexandria at various venues.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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