Metro to suspend weekend track work during Cherry Blossom Festival

The Jefferson Memorial is seen through blooming Yoshino cherry trees along the Tidal Basin in Washington, Friday, April 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON — For the third year, Metro will suspend weekend track work during the Cherry Blossom Festival.

The hiatus will begin on March 22 and last four weeks until April 13.

Metro says it hopes the suspension will make the trip easier for commuters and out-of-town visitors alike.

“We see weekend ridership go up in double-digit increases over what you would normally see. We will only be doing track work late, late at night when it doesn’t impact riders. Most folks will see trains every six to 12 minutes on all lines,” says Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.

He says the Metro rebuilding effort is past the halfway point and that allows the agency to schedule these breaks during peak times for riders. The only work riders will see on those four weekends will be after 10 p.m.

Avoid the crowds

The crowds of cherry blossom visitors typically overload the Smithsonian station, which is the closest to the Tidal Basin.

“We encourage riders to consider other stations than the Smithsonian such as Arlington Cemetery. It’s a beautiful walk across the Memorial Bridge. Or try L’Efant Plaza or Federal Triangle. The other advice is to get a SmarTrip card in advance for your out-of-town guests so you don’t get caught in any lines,” says Stessel.

Metro is asking festival visitors to try and avoid taking Metro during the morning or evening rush hours during the week. Metro says riders should expect extra- crowded trains, especially during the afternoon commute home.

If cold weather delays the peak blooms beyond April 13 however, Metro says it will likely not be able to suspend weekend track work.

“Rescheduling track work outside this four week window is really difficult to do. That said, we’ll be monitoring ridership trends and what the blossoms are doing. If there is an opportunity and need for us to take extraordinary action, we’ll consider it, but it’s not likely,” says Stessel.

Metro will also run additional eight-car trains than normal to provide extra room. Eight-car trains are typically reserved for rush hour service. Eight-car trains are the longest possible that can fit in a station.

For more information about public transportation during the festival, visit the National Cherry Blossom Festival website.

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