WTOP track work guide: 3rd surge July 5-11

WASHINGTON – Blue Line riders are hit again, and Yellow Line riders face a first direct hit from Metro’s round-the-clock track work, in the next two work zones, which will affect rail service to and from Reagan National Airport.

While this may not be quite as disruptive as the June 18-July 3 track work zone that impacted the Blue, Orange and Silver lines, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld puts it in a similar category, with some impact on about 200,000 riders on a typical weekday during both the July 5-11 shutdown and a related shutdown just north of the airport July 12-18. It will make it tough for riders and potentially drivers who use the Blue and Yellow line corridors.

The work

There will be no trains from around 8 p.m. on July 5 through closing July 11 between Reagan National Airport and Braddock Road.

Metro will work to rebuild tracks, fix power issues and address other concerns during the complete shutdown of that stretch of tracks.

The work dramatically cuts back on the frequency of trains at all stations south of the Pentagon, and between the Pentagon and Mt. Vernon Square. The reduction in Yellow Line trains cuts into service during rush hour to a lesser degree between Mt. Vernon Square and Greenbelt. Along those entire stretches, riders should expect longer waits than usual and potentially more crowding than there would be otherwise.

The shuttle trains between Franconia-Springfield and Braddock Road will run only every 15 minutes at rush hour, and shuttle trains between Huntington and Braddock Road will run every 12 minutes at rush hour. There will be no access by rail to Reagan National Airport from the south during the week-long shutdown, but trains will run in and out of the airport station to and from the Pentagon, L’Enfant Plaza and Rosslyn.

Yellow Line trains between Reagan National Airport and Greenbelt will run every 12 minutes at rush hour, which is less frequent than usual. Blue Line Trains are scheduled to run every 12 minutes at rush hour between the airport and Largo, which is the same scheduled interval as usual.

The work is not scheduled to have an impact on the Orange, Silver, Red or Green Lines, but the Green Line will face less interaction with Yellow Line trains where the two tracks join together, which could reduce certain delays.

The work arounds

VRE, a long list of bus options and riding a bike are likely among the best options for riders impacted by this track work.

  • Virginia Railway Express (VRE)

Virginia Railway Express trains stop at Franconia-Springfield, Alexandria (King St.), Crystal City, L’Enfant Plaza and Union Station.

As we noted during the last track work period, the one-way fare between Franconia-Springfield and either of the D.C. stations is $7.40; however, commuters who commit to a five-day pass can get a discount — $58.80 for that trip. Between Franconia-Springfield and Alexandria or Arlington the fare is $6.75 one-way or $53.20 for five days.

VRE tickets must be validated before boarding the train. Check schedules closely, because the last trains depart D.C. before 7 p.m.

  • Variety of bus options

Free shuttle buses will run along the bus-only lanes of Metroway between Braddock Road, Crystal City and Pentagon City, and Metroway buses between Braddock Road and Pentagon City Metro stations will also be free. There will be separate shuttles between Braddock Road and Reagan National Airport stations every 15 minutes.

Riders who get off of a train at Braddock Road and back on a train farther up the line will only be charged for one trip, however the charge will be as if the entire trip was taken on the rail system.

Because of the frequency and routes of the buses, riders may find the Metroway buses provide a faster trip.

The DASH bus service in Alexandria is also expanding the AT3 and AT4 routes to run from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. and making rides on those routes free during this and the next track work zone. From July 6-18, the buses between the Braddock Road and Pentagon Metro stations are scheduled to run every 20 minutes.

Metrobus routes 11Y (Mt. Vernon Express), 10A (Huntington-Pentagon), 10E (Hunting Point-Pentagon-Rosslyn) and Fairfax Connector Route 599 are scheduled to have more frequent rush-hour service than usual during the work zone, and there will be a special express bus during rush hours only between Franconia-Springfield and the Pentagon. That bus will charge the normal express fare of $4.

For riders looking for a connection between the Crystal City area and the Rosslyn or Courthouse area, the expanded service on Arlington’s ART 43 bus that began June 18 will continue through Aug. 20. The additional service expands the route to run outside of rush hour with service every 20 minutes at other times, including weekends.

The special express Fairfax Connector buses, which had been running from Vienna to the Pentagon during the first two work periods, will not run during the work zones impacting the Blue and Yellow lines. Fairfax County Transportation Director Tom Besiadny said the Vienna service will resume when single-tracking returns to the Orange and Silver lines later this month.

  • Park somewhere else

For riders who typically drive to the Blue or Yellow Line, driving to a different VRE or Metro station may prove to be a good alternative.

While regional leaders again urge riders to telework, find another transit option or carpool, people who do choose to drive should be aware of continued parking changes in parts of Arlington, Alexandria and D.C. Check signs carefully before parking, especially just at the beginning or end of rush hour.

Alexandria plans temporary parking restrictions around Metro stations and some temporary bus-only lanes. Alexandria Police plan to be out at additional intersections to help guide drivers through any unusual traffic jams, and control centers across the region continue to monitor traffic signal timing for adjustments.

City of Alexandria agencies are expanding telework and alternate work schedules during this and the following track work periods.

  • Bike to work (or play)

Much of the Blue and Yellow Line tracks follow the Mt. Vernon Trail, a highly travelled bike route that connects Fairfax County to Alexandria, Arlington and D.C. from Mount Vernon through Old Town, past Reagan National Airport and Crystal City to the Memorial Bridge and Rosslyn. In Rosslyn, the trail connects to the Custis and Washington and Old Dominion trails.

Arlington estimates bike trips rose 70 to 90 percent in some areas just during the first Metro single-tracking zone near Ballston in early June.

Additional Capital Bikeshare stations and docks have been installed in some areas, and use has increased since Metro’s track work began. In Alexandria, four new Bikeshare stations bring the city’s total to 24, and extra docks are being added at Braddock Road. Also at Braddock Road, Alexandria is adding new carsharing and taxi pickup zones.

Volunteers are planning to lead “bike trains” of infrequent commuters between Braddock Road and Pentagon City.

  • Cabs and carsharing

At Braddock Road, Alexandria is adding new carsharing and taxi pickup zones in an attempt to make the shifts go more smoothly.

Alexandria taxicab companies are also required to charge only a $15 flat fare for rides between the King Street, Braddock Road or Eisenhower Avenue Metro stations and Reagan National Airport. That fare includes all bags and passengers.

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Chief Operating Officer Margaret McKeough asked people who use the roadways at the airport as a cut through to avoid doing so during the surges, when Reagan National’s already-growing traffic problems could get worse.

Uber and Lyft are authorized to operate to and from the airport. Rides there charge an additional $4 fee.

What’s next

The next track work zone is another significant disruption to the Blue and Yellow Lines near the airport that Metro projects will impact many more riders than the July 5-11 work.

From July 12-18, there will be no trains between Pentagon City and Reagan National Airport. Metro projects a ‘major impact’ on 86,000 trips each weekday, but the fallout is expected to hit many more.

The work will cut off rail service between the airport and Rosslyn, the Pentagon and D.C. for seven days. For the entire week, there will again be significantly reduced service between Reagan-National Airport, King St. and Franconia-Springfield or Huntington, as well as two-thirds fewer Yellow Line trains than usual between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza.

Similar shuttle bus service along the Metroway bus-only lanes will be available. The airport is expected to be served by a shuttle bus to and from Pentagon City and Braddock Road.

July 20-31, track work returns to the first round-the-clock work zone between Ballston and East Falls Church to work on the other track that was not addressed in the first work period and finish remaining work.

Aug 1-7 is the first major impact on the Red Line of Metro’s round-the-clock work, when single-tracking between Takoma and Silver Spring significantly cuts back service through D.C. and to and from Montgomery County for a full week.

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