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WTOP Track Work Guide: Summer 2019 Blue and Yellow Line shutdown

All Blue and Yellow Line stations south of Reagan National Airport are closing from May 25 through Sept. 8 in Metro’s largest round-the-clock shutdown yet.

The work

The closure of the Franconia-Springfield, Van Dorn Street, Huntington, Eisenhower Avenue, King Street and Braddock Road stations is meant to provide time to repair platforms and make other upgrades at the stations.

After the stations reopen, Metro expects additional single tracking for Blue Line trains to complete platform repair work at Van Dorn Street.

During the shutdown, trains will end at Reagan National Airport. There will be rail service between the airport and Pentagon, Rosslyn and downtown D.C. with Blue Line trains running between Largo Town Center and Reagan National Airport and Yellow Line trains running from Reagan National Airport to Mt. Vernon Square or Fort Totten.

Free shuttle buses will be running during the closure, with express routes between Franconia-Springfield or Huntington and the Pentagon and local routes serving other stops. Additional service is also planned on a number of existing bus routes, including more frequent rush hour service or expanded hours.

Extra traffic expected

With around 17,000 morning rush hour commuters alone forced to change plans, regional leaders believe increased traffic is likely if many decide to drive alone.

The traffic issues could be compounded by ongoing construction on Interstate 395 toll lanes, the Memorial Bridge, at Reagan National Airport, and around the Pentagon parking lots, among other issues. So local governments and transportation agencies are also urging even non-Metro riders to consider walking, biking, carpooling, slugging or teleworking more often than usual.

Alexandria is increasing and expanding HOV restrictions on Washington Street to encourage carpooling and slugging, and there are some bus-only lanes planned across the region.

Other Metro lines — the Green, Orange, Silver and Red lines — are scheduled to operate normally during the shutdown, with regular weekday service and typical weekend or late-night single tracking and closures.

The Office of Personnel Management is “strongly encouraging” agencies to allow increased telework, alternative work schedules and other flexibilities during the shutdown. OPM updated telework guidance ahead of the closure, but still leaves it to individual agencies to provide specific direction to workers.

Metro expects to lose $10 million to $15 million in fare revenue directly due to this shutdown, in addition to about $2 million less in parking revenue due to the free parking this summer at Franconia-Springfield, Huntington and Van Dorn Street.

Other Metro closures and work this fall, winter and spring are expected to create similar challenges.

Primary alternatives for rail riders (and others)

Parking at the Franconia-Springfield, Huntington and Van Dorn Street Metro lots will be free during the shutdown. (The other three closed stations do not have parking available.)

Metro advises riders who use the shuttle bus routes to plan an additional 30 minutes for most trips throughout the summer, although shuttle trips with multiple local stops could add more time.

At Franconia-Springfield, which has thousands of parking spaces available on a typical weekday even before the shutdown, weekday rush hour commuters can take Virginia Railway Express, free shuttle buses or existing bus routes. Slugging may also be an option.

At the other closed stations, shuttle buses and boosted regular bus routes are among the options. Bus stops have been moved in many cases from usual locations due to construction closures and, at King Street, due to a separate ongoing bus loop reconstruction project, which could add to confusion in the early days of the closure until everyone adjusts.

The City of Alexandria is cutting night and weekend parking fees at its lots in Old Town to prevent additional drivers from circling neighborhoods for parking spots.

Alexandria has even added water taxi trips between Old Town and The Wharf in D.C., too, with discounted passes for commuters.

The discounts are available for people who live or work in Alexandria. After applying for reimbursement, commuter round-trip tickets will cost only $2 total, and a 2019 commuter pass valid for unlimited trips from May 28 through the end of the year will cost $99.

The commuter round-trip tickets are valid for one trip before 10 a.m. and one trip after 10 a.m. The commuter passes are valid on all trips before 10 a.m. by simply walking up to the boat and on trips after 10 a.m. by first stopping at the ticket office before boarding.

Riders who typically get dropped off at Metro and who want to avoid the shuttles can consider using stations like Dunn Loring, Pentagon City and even crossing the river to the Green Line from Branch Avenue or Suitland.

Free shuttle bus details

For riders heading to or from the Pentagon or destined for points north like Rosslyn or the District, three express shuttle buses are planned.

  • Franconia-Springfield to/from Pentagon (starting 15 minutes before the rail system usually opens, ending 30 minutes after the rail system usually closes, seven days a week)
  • Huntington to/from Pentagon (starting 15 minutes before the rail system usually opens, ending 30 minutes after the rail system usually closes, seven days a week)
  • Landmark Mall to/from Pentagon (Monday — Friday only, 4:45 a.m. — 8:15 p.m.; Alexandria leases park and ride spaces that will be available)

Trips on the Franconia-Pentagon Express and Huntington-Pentagon Express are projected to take about 30 minutes.

Two free local shuttle bus routes are planned, but each will skip one rail stop.

  • Blue Line Shuttle: Franconia-Springfield, Van Dorn Street, King Street-Old Town, Reagan National Airport. This route, operated for Metro by Alexandria’s DASH bus service, does not stop at Braddock Road (starting 30 minutes before the rail system usually opens and ending 30 minutes after the rail system usually closes, seven days a week). Besides the stops at Metro stations, DASH also plans a stop for this route at King Street and Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria.
  • Yellow Line Shuttle: Huntington, Eisenhower Avenue, King Street-Old Town, Braddock Road, Crystal City. This route does not stop at Reagan National Airport (starting 30 minutes before the rail system usually opens and ending 30 minutes after the rail system usually closes, seven days a week).

Shuttle buses — mostly being run for Metro by a private contractor — are planned every five minutes during rush hour and every 10 to 12 minutes at other times. Metro promises there will be disabled-accessible buses available at all shuttle locations.

Most of the buses will not be trackable in real-time like service on most regular bus and train routes in the region. On weekends, the Yellow Line shuttle is eventually planned to show up in Metro’s tracking systems, and DASH is working to make the Blue Line shuttle data available, too.

Riders going to Franconia-Springfield or Huntington should get off at Pentagon to take the express shuttles.

Riders going to Braddock Road must get off at Crystal City rather than Reagan National Airport for a free shuttle, or can pay to use the Metroway bus line that connects Pentagon City, Crystal City, Potomac Yard and Braddock Road using bus-only lanes or the DASH AT3 and AT4 routes between Pentagon and Braddock Road.

Riders headed to Old Town can use shuttles from Crystal City or Reagan National Airport or take a number of regular bus routes.

From Van Dorn Street and Eisenhower Avenue to Pentagon, riders who plan to use the free shuttle buses may want to consider doubling back to an express shuttle from Franconia-Springfield or Huntington depending on how traffic flow and operations work out.

VRE & PRTC

VRE is not able to add additional trains during the closure, but most trains typically have space available.

VRE saw a rider bump during the shorter-duration 24/7 Blue and Yellow Line work.

The one-way fare from Franconia-Springfield to Alexandria or Crystal City is $7. To L’Enfant Plaza or Union Station it is $7.65. VRE also has discounted multitrip or monthly passes, and parking is also available at other VRE stations on both the Manassas and Fredericksburg lines.

Only the Manassas, Broad Run and Rolling Road station lots are typically full or nearly full, according to the most recent VRE data.

Riders with multitrip VRE passes will also get 50% discounts during the shutdown on “step-up” tickets that allow riders to use certain Amtrak trains for faster trips. With the discount supported by state funding, the step-up ticket that must be purchased before boarding the train will be $4.

PRTC OmniRide also plans some shuttles between commuter lots in Dale City and the Rippon VRE station and between Lake Ridge commuter lots and the Woodbridge VRE station.

The free shuttles will connect stops along Dale Boulevard with the Rippon VRE station and a number of stops in Lake Ridge with the Woodbridge VRE. The routes will run four morning trips to meet VRE trains and will meet all afternoon trains. PRTC will also separately continue its regular express OmniRide commuter bus services. From Franconia-Springfield, a new 7:30 p.m. Prince William Metro Express trip will run to the OmniRide Transit Center.

Many commuter lots in Fairfax County, Prince William County and points south also have extensive slug lines that can provide additional options to points in Arlington, the District and elsewhere.

Regular bus routes

Regular Metrobus routes, including Metroway, will charge regular fares during the shutdown.

Among the local bus options: Metrobus 8Z between Quaker Lane and Pentagon (weekday only, extra midday service during the shutdown); 10A between Huntington and Pentagon (extra rush hour service added, extended at Huntington to also serve south side of station); 10E between Hunting Point and Pentagon (weekday only); and 21A between Landmark Mall and Pentagon (weekday only, extra midday service added).

Metroway will have more frequent scheduled service at rush hour — every 8 minutes — between Pentagon City and Braddock Road, and will add new stops near the National Institute for the Blind Headquarters.

Metrobus 11Y between Mount Vernon (at rush hour) or Hunting Point and Foggy Bottom is another heavily used weekday route. During rush hour, the fare for that route will remain the $4.25 express bus fare. But during additional service being added in the middle of the day, the fare will match other local routes with a $2 fare. In addition to the new midday service during the shutdown, extra 11Y buses are planned during rush hour, too.

At Huntington, the NH2 bus between National Harbor and Alexandria will stop on the south side of the station, not the north side, as part of the bus stop shifts during the construction work.

In Fairfax County, Fairfax Connector is offering weekday rush hour express bus service every 10 minutes on Routes 393 and 394 between Saratoga, Backlick North and the Gabrill Road Park and Ride lots and the Pentagon and Mark Center. Parking is free, and the fare is $4.25 per trip.

In Alexandria, DASH Bus is adding extra weekday trips on the AT3 and AT4 between Hunting Point and Old Town, Parkfairfax and Pentagon via Braddock Road, for which riders will pay regular fares. DASH has continued to look into options for another free rush hour shuttle between Pentagon and King Street. The King Street Trolley will also run longer each day, starting at 7 a.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. weekends.

Alexandria also plans fare discounts for riders who use the new DASH mobile ticket app. App users will be charged just $1 during the shutdown, rather than the current regular $1.75 fare.

The free DASH app is available for download on Android and Apple phones.

Mobile payment could become more important, because riders who typically add money to their SmarTrip cards at fare machines in rail stations otherwise might need to plan ahead more than usual. Fare vending machines will be available only at stations that are open. Riders who need to add money on the bus can only do it with cash. Metro also offers online options, but it can take up to a few days for money added online to show up at the farebox.

In Arlington, commuters from the Shirlington area who typically pick up Metro at King Street might want to consider buses to and from the Orange Line corridor or Pentagon instead if getting to Pentagon City or Crystal City is not an option. Besides Metrobus routes, several ART bus routes serve the area.

HOV rule changes & new bus lanes

In Alexandria, to support the shuttle and other bus routes and to encourage carpooling, HOV rules on Washington Street are increasing from HOV-2 to HOV-3 and the hours are expanding to 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. while the six stations are closed.

The city is also trying to address chokepoints for buses by improving traffic signal timing and other changes.

A special bus lane on the shoulder of the Outer Loop of the Capital Beltway between the Eisenhower Avenue Connector and Telegraph Road is planned to help some of the shuttle buses zip past traffic.

The District Department of Transportation is also adding bus lanes this summer on H and I streets Northwest downtown.

The D.C. bus lanes are scheduled to be in place from June 3 through at least the end of September. In addition to buses, taxis carrying passengers can use the lanes. Uber, Lyft and Via are not allowed to use the bus lanes.

Getting to and from DCA during shutdown

There are no changes for travelers going between Reagan National Airport and points north on Metrorail, because trains continue to run during the shutdown to Crystal City, Pentagon City, Pentagon, Rosslyn and the District.

However, for those going between Reagan National and points south like Alexandria, Huntington or Franconia-Springfield, shuttle buses are the only transit option.

The shutdown is likely to bring more traffic to the airport from people picking up friends or family or even more taxi, Uber and Lyft trips. Given ongoing construction at the airport that narrows lanes, taking the train north a stop or two to meet up with a ride could be a quicker option at some times of day or days of the week.

Riders headed to Franconia-Springfield could also consider taking a Blue or Yellow Line train north to Pentagon to catch an express shuttle bus if there are any repeats of long lines and extended waits for shuttle buses at the airport.

Another ride hailing company, Via, is expanding into Alexandria as the shutdown begins. It now operates in D.C., Arlington and Alexandria.

Bikes, scooters

Biking, bikeshare or shared scooters are also good options to reach Metro stations with rail service or to go all the way to final destinations, particularly because the Mt. Vernon Trail is a safe and convenient option through much of the shutdown area.

The trail is often a busy commuter route, but bike and running traffic could pick up even more during the closure.

Keep in mind, however, that any motorized vehicles, including electric scooters, are not technically permitted on the National Park Service trail.

Capital Bikeshare is offering half-price monthly memberships for $14 during the shutdown. Memberships allow users to take an unlimited number of trips of up to 30 minutes for no additional cost beyond the membership fees.

What’s next

After the shutdown ends, Metro expects single tracking to continue on the Blue Line. Additional work that is not expected to have major impacts on service could continue at some of the closed stations into December.

Next year, similar lengthy shutdowns are planned next year at Vienna and Dunn Loring on the Orange Line and at Greenbelt, College Park and West Hyattsvile on the Green Line.

Additional work at Rhode Island Avenue on the Red Line is planned in fall 2020 followed by shutdowns in 2021 for Cheverly, Landover, New Carrollton, Addison Road and Arlington Cemetery on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines.

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