WTOP track work guide: 4th surge July 12-18

WASHINGTON — Reagan National Airport is cut off from rail service in and out of D.C. under the next round-the-clock Metro shutdown — a shutdown that could cause additional confusion for riders because it begins in the middle of the week.

The work

There will be no Blue Line or Yellow Line trains at all between Reagan National Airport and Pentagon City from Tuesday, July 12 through the end of Metro service on Monday, July 18. The Crystal City Metro Station will be closed.

It is the second of two back-to-back work zones that involve a shutdown on the Blue and Yellow lines in the area, after the previous work zone that runs through Monday, July 11 shut down the tracks just south of the airport.

In the newest work zone, crews will be working on what General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has called “the basics” in the tunnels and the elevated tracks just outside the airport.

The shutdown and associated changes mean that, like during the previous work zone, the number of Yellow Line trains across the Potomac River will be dramatically reduced. Only one out of three trains that typically run over the Yellow Line bridge during rush hour is scheduled to be running.

South of Reagan National Airport, rush hour trains between Franconia-Springfield or Huntington and the airport will run half as often as usually scheduled.

Metro estimates the work will have a “major impact” on 86,000 trips on an average weekday, with the ripple effects affecting tens of thousands more riders.

Metro has encouraged riders to consider alternate options and avoid the Blue and Yellow lines in Virginia at rush hour if at all possible during the work zone.

The workarounds

Commuters trying to get around the work have a number of choices, but those who stick with Metro need to pay close attention because the best shuttle bus options will not always be from the temporary ends of the line.

Direct shuttle buses around the closure will run between Braddock Road and Pentagon City, in addition to free Metroway service connecting Braddock Road, Potomac Yard, Crystal City and Pentagon City.

Alexandria is also offering additional, free service on the DASH AT3 and AT4 routes, and there is additional service on regular Metrobus routes 10A (Huntington-Pentagon), 10E (Hunting Point-Pentagon-Rosslyn) and 11Y (Mt. Vernon Express).

Regardless of whether riders plan to get back on the Metro system farther down the line, they should tap out of the fare gates with a SmarTrip card and then tap back in. The rail trip should be charged as a single complete ride.

  • To and from Franconia-Springfield

Riders who typically take Metro from Franconia-Springfield have several options, including Virginia Railway Express (VRE), special free express buses to the Pentagon or buses that may be more direct to their destinations.

While a one-way VRE trip is more expensive than a Metro trip, the price of a five-day pass between Franconia-Springfield and Union Station or L’Enfant Plaza is comparable to the price of 10 peak-period round-trips on Metro.

VRE trains through Franconia-Springfield stop at Alexandria (adjacent to Metro’s King Street station), Crystal City, L’Enfant Plaza and Union Station, but they only run inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon.

Riders planning to stick with Metro options to and from Franconia-Springfield should expect trips to take significantly longer than usual. Riders need to remember to get off northbound trains at Braddock Road for the most direct shuttle access because shuttles from the airport to Pentagon City will be running less frequently.

  • To and from the airport

Riders heading to the airport from the south, including from King Street, Franconia-Springfield and Huntington, will be able to take the train to Reagan National Airport. However, riders coming from or through D.C. or Arlington do not have that option during this weeklong work zone.

On Metro, anyone headed to the airport from the north will need to take the train to Pentagon City, then get on a shuttle that will stop at Crystal City and the airport. Riders will need to be sure to board the correct shuttle at Pentagon City to avoid being taken to Braddock Road.

Other options include cabs or other paid ride-hailing services or, for the truly energetic, about a 2-mile walk through Crystal City to the Mt. Vernon Trail and the airport.

Alexandria cabs have a $15 flat fare during this surge for rides between Reagan National Airport and the King Street, Braddock Road or Eisenhower Avenue Metro stations. That fare includes all bags and passengers but will not help riders to or from the north side of the airport.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has warned of increased traffic on the already congested airport roadways during the work zone as more people use cars to access the airport.

On Saturday and Sunday mornings, riders may want to try Metrobus routes 13F and 13G. The buses run between the Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Arlington Cemetery, Pentagon, Crystal City and Reagan National stations before the Metrorail system typically opens. The earliest bus arrives at Reagan National at 5:56 a.m. Saturdays and at 6:10 a.m. Sundays. The latest arrives around 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

  • To and from Crystal City, Pentagon City

Riders who typically use the Crystal City Metro station may want to consider walking to Pentagon City if shuttles are crowded or lines are long.

Depending on whether schedules are convenient, VRE is an option to and from Crystal City as well.

Other choices include the Metroway rapid bus service that connects Pentagon City, Crystal City, Potomac Yard and Braddock Road or commuter buses.

For example, in addition to Loudoun Transit or PRTC OmniRide service to and from areas like Prince William County, Fairfax Connector runs buses like the Route 599 express service between Reston North, Pentagon, Pentagon City and Crystal City.

For riders trying to connect to or from the Orange Line corridor, Arlington’s green and white ART 43 bus could help avoid the crowding at Pentagon City to and from Rosslyn. The bus runs between the Crystal City and Courthouse Metro stations with a stop at Rosslyn. ART has added increased service on the route during this track work zone.

Crystal City and Pentagon City are relatively short bike rides from areas like Rosslyn, Georgetown or downtown D.C. to the north or from Braddock Road, Eisenhower Avenue or Old Town Alexandria to the south. Capital Bikeshare has added extra bikes and docks in specific locations since the 24/7 Metro work began. For riders who commute to downtown D.C., Bikeshare is also adding new corral service at 20th Street and Virginia Avenue NW, Fifth Street and F Street NW, and Maryland Avenue and Independence Avenue SW to ensure that riders have space to leave their bikes.

Those corrals, in addition to the existing ones at 21st Street and I Street NW, Farragut Square, and 13th Street and New York Avenue NW will all be open from 8 a.m. to noon on regular workdays through late fall.

In addition to annual and daily memberships, Bikeshare now offers a $2 single-ride option for trips up to 30 minutes.

Volunteers are leading riders along bike routes between Braddock Road and Pentagon City each morning, a trip that usually takes less than 30 minutes.

  • To and from King Street

For riders who typically use the King Street station, VRE may be a good option but, again, only if the schedules fit.

Other choices include using a series of bus routes that serve the station, riding a bike or, if those do not work, using the shuttle bus choices or Metroway to connect to the Metro trains that will be running between Pentagon City and areas to the north.

Otherwise, taking the train from King Street to Reagan National then transferring to a shuttle bus will get riders to their destination, but it may take significantly longer than usual.

What’s next

Once this track work zone ends, there is a one-day break from planned rush-hour track work on July 19.

Then, Metro returns to the first work zone area between Ballston and East Falls Church to work on the other track that was not addressed during the June 4-16 work.

The single-tracking in that area on the Orange and Silver lines will run from July 20-31, dramatically cutting service at stations west of Ballston and somewhat less significantly cutting into rush-hour service at stations from Largo to Ballston.

In August, Montgomery County faces a major impact from the track work for the first time.

From August 1-7, round-the-clock single-tracking between Takoma and Silver Spring will cut rail service north of NoMa-Gallaudet Metro Station by 75 percent. Rush-hour service between NoMa and Grosvenor will be cut by 25 percent.

Montgomery County plans to add RideOn bus service and shuttles during the work zone in a warmup for the complete shutdown of part of the Red Line in October.

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