Alexandria cutting parking fees as part of final preparations for upcoming Metro shutdown

With more traffic expected in and around Alexandria, Virginia, starting in less than two weeks, the city is set to cut evening and weekend parking rates at its garages during the major Metro shutdown.

The city council is scheduled to vote Tuesday night to cut fees from $2.50 an hour to a flat $1 fee after 5 p.m. weekdays and all day weekends and holidays at the Courthouse garage during the May 25 through Sept. 8 closure of all six Blue and Yellow Line stations south of Reagan National Airport.

The flat fee will be $2 at those times at the city’s other garages and surface lots in the area, all to encourage drivers to stop adding to traffic by circling neighborhoods for parking. Combined, the lots have 876 parking spaces, with spaces typically available on nights and weekends.

“The temporary parking rates are intended to be in effect for the duration of Metrorail closures associated with the Platform Improvement Project, regardless of the currently projected schedule,” a draft resolution said.

The city council has been skeptical of Metro’s promises, particularly after the shutdown was extended for an additional week.

A presentation prepared for Tuesday’s final scheduled briefing for the council before the shutdown begins indicates the additional work on the Braddock Road platform is expected to take two more weeks than initially planned, which was the entire contingency built into the original schedule.

That would suggest Metro now has one week of contingency built in for that project to fix the uneven platform there.

Metro calls the Sept. 8 completion date “aggressive but achievable.”

Work is expected to be around the clock in 12-hour shifts of about 700 workers across the six stations and related areas.

A dry run weekend closure earlier this month, May 4-5, went OK, the city said, with many lessons learned.

Alexandria is focused on working with Metro to address noise issues from jackhammering, saw cutting, bus operations and any concerns related to worker parking, dust and hauling routes.

Metro has assured the city that online complaints or concerns tied to the project will be flagged for faster response.

Workarounds

Backup plans “focus on transit but accept that more vehicles will be on our streets,” the city council presentation said.

To get more people through the area, the city is increasing the HOV requirements and hours on Washington Street, planning real-time adjustments to traffic lights based on cameras and expanded sensors, and planning extra police presence and enforcement. The city’s Emergency Operations Center is on standby, and there is a focus on coordination among the city, Metro, airports authority, Virginia Department of Transportation and National Park Service.

VDOT is allowing buses on the shoulder of part of the Capital Beltway.

During the monthslong shutdown, five free shuttle bus routes and some other additional options are planned with 300 bus operators and 154 buses.

Three of the free shuttle bus routes are express — Franconia-Springfield to Pentagon, Huntington to Pentagon, and on weekdays only Landmark Mall to Pentagon.

Two of the free shuttles are local — a “Yellow Line shuttle” that stops at Huntington, Eisenhower Avenue, King Street, Braddock Road and Crystal City, and a “Blue Line shuttle” that stops at Franconia-Springfield, Van Dorn Street, King Street and Reagan National Airport.

In Old Town, Blue and Yellow Line local buses will drive along Diagonal Road past the King Street Metro. The Yellow Line local bus will use West Street north of the station, while the Blue Line local route will use Washington Street.

The buses are expected to add about 30 minutes to a normal rail commute.

On regular bus routes, Alexandria’s DASH bus will offer a discounted $1 fare for riders who pay with a new mobile app. DASH is adding extra rush-hour service to the AT3 and AT4 routes that serve the Pentagon, and extending King Street Trolley service to run between 7 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. weekdays.

Extra water taxi trips are also planned between Alexandria and The Wharf in D.C. The trips are expected to take about 30 minutes with departures at 7 a.m., 7:35 a.m., 8:20 a.m. and 8:55 a.m. The last weekday departure is scheduled for 8:45 p.m.

For the first week and a half of the shutdown, extra Metro and city customer service teams are scheduled to be around the shutdown area, including some who speak Spanish or Amharic.

Other options include Virginia Railway Express, biking and regular bus routes. Fairfax Connector is adding extra service on Routes 393 and 394, and PRTC is adding shuttles from Dale City and Lake Ridge commuter lots to VRE stations.

Road construction will continue during the shutdown on Interstate 395, the Arlington Memorial Bridge and a number of other projects.

Other work during shutdown

Initial prep work for the Potomac Yard station is planned during the shutdown, even as the final design for the station remains in flux.

Metro and its selected contractor are reviewing station entrance design options to identify impacts on cost and schedule if each is selected. The results of that review is expected in a few weeks.

Some of the options for the additional southern entrance that had been quietly cut over cost concerns before being added back through state funding tied to the Amazon HQ2 deal would add an entrance pavilion at the southern end, but leave a single pedestrian bridge over the CSX tracks into the station.

Another option would be a full second entrance with direct pedestrian bridge access to allow for access from both ends of the platform.

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