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Some caught off guard by weekend Metro closures

Saturday - 10/8/2011, 12:32pm  ET

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - This weekend's Metro station closures have some riders and business owners surprised, but Metro says the Columbus Day weekend work schedule was announced in July.

Three D.C. Metro stations are shut down for Columbus Day weekend track work and won't reopen until Tuesday morning.

"We put out a 12-month calendar of all the major track work that would be happening on weekends, " says Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. "We are in a hole that we are trying to dig out of... in terms of getting the system back to a state of good repair."

The closure of the Shaw, U Street and Columbia Heights stations on the Green and Yellow Lines coincides with the Taste of D.C. street festival going on along Pennsylvania Avenue downtown.

Shuttle buses are carrying riders to and from those stations.

Also, on the Orange Line, buses replace trains between the East Falls Church and West Falls Church stations so work related to the Dulles Rail extension can be done.

Stessel urges people who are organizing weekend events between now and next summer to check the calendar on Metro's website.

"This is the Nation's Capital. There's always something going on. It is impossible to plan track work around moderate to even some major events," Stessel says.

In the past, some event planners have asked Metro to delay track work on a given weekend so their event would not be affected, but most of those requests can't be granted.

"It would have to be on the scale of the Fourth of July, or the MLK Memorial Dedication," he says.

Because the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial dedication was rescheduled for October 16, Metro has agreed to delay track work planned for that day.

This weekend, the station closings are necessary so that new track switches can be installed outside the the U Street Station.

"It's an NTSB recommendation that we have to get done, and there's really no better time to do it than a three day weekend where we have this solid chunk of time we can get all the work done," Stessel says.

There is some good news for riders. Shuttle buses in use this weekend are running even more frequently than trains normally do, and using a different Metro line may help speed your trip.

"Folks who want to bypass the work zone can also use the Red Line as a good alternate between Gallery Place and Fort Totten," says Stessel.

On Sunday, Metro released video of the track work near the U Street station.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)