The Inner Scoop

There's a science to timing traffic lights

Posted on: Tuesday 6/18/2013 3:06am

WASHINGTON - On your commute there's probably one traffic light that just drives you crazy. You're not alone, but there's a reason traffic signals work they way they do.

Traffic lights facilitate the flow of traffic, and an array of traffic signals working harmoniously regulates the flow of traffic across a broader region.

In densely populated areas, however, a network of signals can quickly become overloaded during peak travel times. That's when frustration sets in.

An unofficial WTOP poll conducted in late May asked local motorists to identify the intersections that cost them the most time. The map below illustrates the widespread nature of the grievances aired by these commuters.

View Traffic Lights Poll in a larger map

The process of coordinating a network of traffic lights can be complex and exhaustive. Detailed studies and weekly surveys account for drivers traveling roads of varying capacity across a broad area to various points at different times of the day. The balance between optimal and gridlock is often tenuous.

Wayne Wentz, chief of transportation, engineering and operations for Arlington County's Department of Environmental Services, says highway engineers often work on razor-thin margins when timing a series of traffic signals.

"You have to essentially time a whole corridor for the worst intersection in that corridor, two major arterials (that) both need a certain amount of time to serve them. All the other streets on each corridor then need to match that same cycle length if we're going to synchronize," Wentz says.

It's not just vehicles - planners also have to factor in pedestrian traffic patterns at nearby crosswalks.

Wentz says that long cycle lengths are pedestrian-unfriendly and can lead to jaywalking and other unsafe behaviors, which can result in bigger problems for road users.

Highway engineers classify the batch of vehicles that accelerate away from a green light as a "platoon."

"We try to do a time-space analysis," Wentz says. "If any particular signal lets a platoon of cars go and that platoon is going to travel at a certain speed our goal is to progress every platoon all the way through the length of roadway.

"We know the length of the average platoon of 15, 20, 30 cars and we know how far apart the signals are. If you take the distance divided by the speed, you know how long it should take that platoon to get from signal to signal to signal."

This simplified approach to traffic management relies on an idealized traffic flow. Wentz says it gets more complicated with added volume.

"The greens are supposed to be long enough for every platoon, but because we load some blocks up with (traffic from) side streets and driveways and because speeds aren't perfectly regulated, platoons start to break up. We can't perfectly predict the volumes."

Throughout the region, various jurisdictions are charged with the responsibility of traffic signal coordination and control. Although a series of lights may be coordinated along a stretch of roadway, they may not be synchronized across jurisdictional lines. Backups can therefore result in corridors that span county and city lines.

WTOP contacted a few of these local governments and inquired about the most troublesome intersections identified in the poll.

Most of the representatives insist that a mistimed signal is a rare occurrence.

In many cases, what seems like a poorly-timed intersection from one vantage point is functioning properly in a larger system. In other cases there is simply too much input.

The road network is then said to be over capacity, and the traffic signals are overwhelmed.

"Every intersection has a capacity. There are times when the demand volumes can exceed that capacity and that's when the level of service falls," Wentz says.

When traffic volumes increase, synchronization of signals on one road gives way to the optimization of the regional traffic flow on all of the roads. This, Wentz says, comes at a cost.

"If you have two main streets that are crossing each other, you've got to (regulate) both of those corridors."

In other words, what is good for the individual is not necessarily best for the whole.

Still, there will always be a running list of traffic signals that seem to defy the greater good.

"Sometimes there are faults in the system. Sometimes it's worth calling your jurisdiction and saying, 'Have you noticed there's a change?' But it can also be that there are just situations that people aren't aware of. It may be that the particular signal they're going to is optimized for the intersecting street," Wentz says.

The agencies that oversee traffic lights on major arteries do their best to flush out weaknesses that may arise from irregularities in the traffic pattern. Accommodating everyone's needs can often be challenging, if not impossible.

"Like anything you can think of, sometimes stuff breaks — no conspiracy, just the way it is," WTOP Traffic Reporter Bob Marbourg says.

"Even when the engineers try to optimize and maximize the flow of traffic, the solution will almost always be a compromise but hopefully without compromising safety."

Follow @DildineWTOP and @WTOPtraffic on Twitter.

Three Red Line stations closed this weekend

Posted on: Saturday 6/15/2013 12:13am

WASHINGTON - Metro continues its rebuilding work this weekend with a docket of track work that will affect all five rail lines.

All of the track work begins at 10 p.m. Friday and will last through the weekend.

A portion of the Red Line will be closed to allow for ongoing infrastructure reconstruction and maintenance. Riders should brace for delays of up to 40 minutes. A total of three stations will be closed.

The Brookland, Takoma and Silver Spring stations will be closed. The Fort Totten Station will be open for Green Line service only.

Two types of bus service will be available for riders who travel through the work zone. Limited-stop buses will operate between Forest Glen and Rhode Island stations. These buses will make an intermediate stop in Silver Spring. Metro says that customers using limited-stop buses should add up to 40 minutes to their travel time.

Local buses will operate between Forest Glen and Rhode Island Avenue, and will make intermediate stops at the Silver Spring, Takoma, Fort Totten and Brookland stations. Each stop will require about 10 extra minutes.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, the last train from Glenmont to Forest Glen will depart 53 minutes earlier than normal to allow for shuttle bus connections.

Track work on the other lines will make for long waits on station platforms. Orange, Blue, Yellow and Green line trains will run every 20 minutes throughout the weekend to allow for rebuilding work in three separate work zones.

Metro says that passengers will experience the longer wait time on the platform and that "once a train departs a station, it is not expected to encounter delays en route."

Motorcycle rides

Anne Arundel residents will have two motorcycle rides to contend with Saturday.

The annual Burn Foundation ride for charity runs from 9 a.m. to noon and will affect traffic along Dorsey Road, Telegraph Road/MD Route 170, Route 100 East, Interstate-97 South and Route 50 east to the Bay Bridge.

Drivers should expect heavy traffic and should drive with caution with so many motorcycles on the road. Police will be stationed at the intersections of Dorsey and Route 170 plus Route 170 and Route 100 to alleviate traffic problems.

Also Saturday, the Faces of Valor ride begins at 9:30 a.m. At the Outback Steakhouse on Forest Drive in Annapolis. Impacted roads include Route 2, Route 50, Route 450, the Severn River Bridge, St. George Street, Rowe Boulevard and Generals Highway. The ride ends at the county fairgrounds.

Police will escort the 80 to 120 participants. But motorists should expect delays along the route and heavier than normal traffic.

Follow Dave Dildine and @WTOPtraffic on Twitter.

Weekend Wakeup: Metro disrupted, K Street closures

Posted on: Sunday 6/9/2013 11:47am

WASHINGTON - Weekend work zones and events may slow drivers on some routes around town. Travel conditions will be improving on Saturday as the WTOP Weather Center expects the heaviest downpours will have lifted into the New England and out to sea.

In Northwest Washington, eastbound K Street will be closed through the weekend under Washington Circle and 22nd Street for bridge work, if the weather holds out.

In Georgetown, a stretch of K Street will be blocked between 30th Street and Wisconsin Ave from 5:30 to 11 a.m. on Saturday. The Lawyers Have a Heart 10K will launch from their staging area on K Street and onto the Whitehurst Freeway westbound toward M Street. The race also includes a stretch of Canal Road and Foxhall Road.

Expect early inbound delays on Key Bridge and a diversion for inbound travel from Chain Bridge and Arizona Avenue. The closures on M Street, Canal Road and the Whitehurst Freeway should be lifted before noon.

The Capital Pride Parade will block several streets near Dupont Circle on Saturday afternoon. The parade route includes P St, Dupont Circle, New Hampshire Avenue, R Street, 17th Street and 14th Street north of Logan Circle. The street closures are expected to remain in place until 9:30 p.m.

The Washington Nationals will host the Minnesota Twins on 4:05 p.m. Saturday and will play a double-header Sunday beginning at 1:35 p.m. Expect congestion on South Capitol Street and the Southeast/Southwest Freeway before and after the ballgames.

In Northeast Washington, traffic on New York Avenue will be reduced to one lane each way between Florida Avenue and Penn Street for bridge work through noon on Saturday.

2013 Air Force Cycling Classic

The Arlington County Police Department will close several streets in Clarendon on Saturday from 4 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the 2013 Air Force Cycling Classic bicycle race. The following streets will be affected:

  • Wilson Boulevard from N. Fillmore Street to Washington Boulevard
  • Clarendon Boulevard from Washington Boulevard to N. Fillmore Street
  • Washington Boulevard from Wilson Boulevard to N. Highland Street
  • Highland Street from Wilson Boulevard to Washington Boulevard
  • Garfield Street and Fillmore Street from Wilson Boulevard to Washington Boulevard

On Sunday, these streets will be affected. From 4:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.:

  • Joyce Street closed from Army Navy Drive to Columbia Pike
  • Columbia Pike closed from Oak Street to Pentagon South Parking (Access to the Pentagon is available at Eads Street/Army Navy Drive and Fern Street/Army Navy Drive.)
  • South Gate Road - no access to Columbia Pike
  • Washington Boulevard eastbound closed at I-395
  • Washington Boulevard westbound closed from Memorial Bridge to I-395
  • Route 110 southbound closed from Rosslyn to S. 15th Street
  • Marshall Drive closed at Route 110
  • I-395 South ramp to Route 1 closed
From 4:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.:
  • Crystal Drive from the 1400 block to the 2300 block
  • S. 15th Street - no traffic permitted east of Jefferson Davis Highway. All eastbound traffic must use Route 1.
  • S. 18th Street and Clark Street - no traffic permitted eastbound towards Crystal Drive unless parking. All traffic will be detoured southbound on Bell Street.
  • S. 20th Street and Jefferson Davis Highway - no traffic permitted from Jefferson Davis Highway.
  • S. 23rd Street - will be converted to a one way street westbound from Crystal Drive to Jefferson Davis Highway. All traffic coming from Jefferson Davis Highway will be sent south on Clark Street.

Race attendees are encouraged to use Metro. The Clarendon station on the Orange Line is located in the middle of the race course at the corner of Highland Street and Wilson Boulevard. And motorists should be on the lookout for temporary "No Parking" signs as illegally parked vehicles may be ticketed or towed. If your vehicle is towed from a public street, call 703-228-4252.

I-395/95 Express Lanes Project

VDOT has cancelled previously planned HOV lane closures along I-95/395 this weekend because of heavy rain.

The closures had been planned for ongoing construction of the new 95 Express Lanes.

Leesburg Events and Traffic Changes

In Leesburg, the Potomac Celtic Festival will be held at Morven Park from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Big events at Morven Park often produce delays between the bypass and Lucketts even when accompanied by police direction at the park entrances.

Event-goers headed to the Celtic Festival or the Run, Walk & Wag 5K at Philip Bolen Memorial Park will want to be aware of the new traffic pattern change on the southside of the Leeburg Bypass. On Saturday the traffic signal on the Route 7/15 Bypass at Sycolin Road will be permanently removed. Traffic on the bypass will no longer be able to access Sycolin Road. Sycolin Road will be closed between Gateway Drive and Hope Parkway while a new overpass is constructed.

Metro Track Work

Rail work on Metro this weekend won't close any stations, but it will cause longer waits on station platforms. The work will affect all five rail lines from Friday night through closing-time on Sunday. Metro is expecting larger crowds due to downtown events and says many trains will be operating with eight cars.

  • Red Line trains will operate every 24 minutes between Shady Grove and Glenmont. From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, additional trains will operate between Grosvenor and NoMa-Gallaudet, resulting in service about every 12 minutes between these stations.
  • Orange Line trains will operate every 18 minutes between Vienna and New Carrollton.
  • Blue Line trains will operate every 18 minutes between Franconia-Springfield and Largo Town Center.
  • Yellow Line trains will operate every 18 minutes between Huntington and Fort Totten.
  • Green Line trains will operate every 18 minutes between Greenbelt and Branch Ave.

Other VDOT construction work

Saturday night, expect alternating double lane closures on I-395 South between Exit 3 Duke Street/Route 236 and Exit 2 Edsall Road/Route 648.

Sunday night, expect alternating double lane closures on I-395 South between Shirlington Road and Exit 5 King Street/Route 7.

Follow Dave Dildine and @WTOPtraffic on Twitter.

Check vehicle's fluids, expect local delays this weekend

Posted on: Saturday 6/1/2013 1:24pm

WASHINGTON - Drivers will certainly be rolling the windows down or cranking up the air conditioning this weekend. The WTOP Weather Center is forecasting hot, muggy temperatures on Saturday and Sunday.

The summer heat can take its toll on your vehicle. And now is a good time to check the fluid levels under your hood, including your coolant and oil. Roadside breakdowns on sun-beaten, shadeless highways can be dangerous and frustrating.

And there will be plenty of events to keep the roads busy around the region Saturday.

In Arlington, the Corso de Santa Cruz Parade will step off from Shirlington Road near South 25th Street. The parade route will block various lanes on Shirlington Road, Four Mile Run Drive and Walter Reed Drive in Shirlington from noon to 3 p.m.

Meanwhile, a 15K race in Springfield will affect travel on some of the roads through the commercial district. The course includes part of Route 644/Old Keene Mill Road, Loisdale Road and Highland Street between Springfield Mall and Lake Accotink. The race begins at 8 a.m.

The ZOOMA Annapolis Half Marathon course includes a portion of Route 2/Ritchie Highway between Route 50 and the Naval Academy Bridge. There will also be street closures in downtown Annapolis between Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and City Dock. A portion of the race will close Rowe Boulevard. The half marathon begins at 7 a.m. and will likely cause some inconvenience to motorists heading through Annapolis.

Delays are not uncommon on weekends through Georgetown. But there may be more traffic than usual headed inbound on Canal Road and the Key Bridge this Saturday for Taste of Georgetown. Wisconsin Avenue will be blocked for this event between M Street and K Street. The festival, which features food and beer tastings, will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. But the closure of Wisconsin will be in place for several hours before and after the event.

In Fredericksburg, a soap box derby on William Street and an antique car show on Caroline Street may cause localized delays.

Interstate 95 in Virginia
The bigger headaches will exist on the region's major thoroughfares including Interstate 95, which will handle heavier weekend volume as more summer vacationers hit the road. Expect southbound congestion to develop by midday on Saturday from Lorton to the Occoquan River after the express lanes are closed to southbound travel. Northbound I-95 normally begins slowing in Fredericksburg and through Stafford County by early afternoon, especially on Sundays.

Bay Bridge traffic
Last weekend was a long weekend for many and also the unofficial start of summer. The first significant delays of the season were observed on Route 50 between Easton and The Bay Bridge on Memorial Day as vacationers headed home from the Atlantic beaches and Eastern Shore. The potential of heavy traffic exists again this weekend on Route 50 although delays may not be as intense as they were last Monday.

Metro riders should expect longer wait times on all station platforms this weekend. Trains will run at 22 minute intervals with scheduled track work at various stations on all five rail lines. A section of the Red Line between Woodley Park and Metro Center will be closed for work. The Dupont Circle and Farragut North stations will both be closed. Free shuttle buses will route riders around the work zone. Delays of up to 25 minutes are possible.

Follow Dave Dildine and @WTOPtraffic on Twitter.

I-81 section in Va. reopens, slope reviewed

Posted on: Thursday 5/30/2013 10:40am

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (AP) -- A southbound stretch of Interstate 81 in Montgomery County has reopened with additional lanes to avoid an unstable rock slope.

The Virginia Department of Transportation closed the southbound lanes after the unstable slope was discovered on Wednesday. The slope is in a work zone where a truck climbing lane is under construction between mile markers 120 and 125.

VDOT reopened the highway Thursday morning after the climbing lane contractor paved additional southbound lanes to route traffic away from the slope. A barrier wall also has been installed.

VDOT says there's a 25-foot deep crack in the unstable section of the slope, which appears to be about 60 feet wide and 60 feet tall.

Geotechnical experts are working to determine the safest way to remove the slope.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Overnight closures on Fairfax Parkway through Friday

Posted on: Tuesday 5/28/2013 11:27pm

WASHINGTON - The Interstate 66 ramps to and from northbound Fairfax County Parkway/Route 286 will close overnight starting Tuesday as crews work on paving the Fair Lakes/Fairfax County Parkway interchange.

Detours will be posted from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. through Thursday night, May 30. On Friday May 31, signs will be posted from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.

Police will be on-site to provide assistance.

Single-lane closures and detours onto Fair Lakes Circle run from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday though Friday nights for the next eight weeks. Crews are working along Fair Lakes Parkway and the Fairfax County Parkway from Route 29 to Rugby Road.

The new $69.5 million interchange improves pedestrian and bike access, widens more than three miles of the Fairfax County Parkway and improves traffic flow by separating local and Parkway traffic.

Completion of the project is slated for this October.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

Memorial Day Parade and continued track work Monday

Posted on: Monday 5/27/2013 6:39am

The Rolling Thunder rally, shown here in a file photo, will close streets this weekend. (AP)

WASHINGTON - Memorial Day weekend events continue Monday and travelers will want to be aware of various holiday-themed events around town, including the Memorial Day Parade, which will close Constitution Avenue on Monday afternoon.

While most long-term road projects will be put on hold to accommodate holiday travel volume, track work will continue on parts of the Metrorail system. Six Metro stations on the Red and Orange lines will be closed.

Rolling Thunder Weekend Closures

Groups of motorcyclists will be riding on roads around the metro area throughout the weekend. According to its mission statement, Rolling Thunder is "a demonstration for service members that were abandoned after the Vietnam War" that strives keep the issue in the public eye.

Their big event, the First Amendment Demonstration Run wrapped up Sunday.

However, Thunder Alley took over 22nd Street NW, north of Constitution Avenue throughout the weekend. The closure of 22nd Street will not have a direct impact on traffic. Vendors will continue to offer food and official merchandise Monday between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Memorial Day Wreath Laying/Parade

The National Wreath Laying Ceremony will take place at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery at 11 a.m. Monday. Expect motorcades, motorcycles and delays along Washington Boulevard and on the George Washington Parkway near the Potomac River Bridges during and after the ceremony.

For more information on the ceremony, click here.

Following a separate ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the National Memorial Day Parade will kick off from 7th Street NW at Constitution Avenue around 2 p.m. The parade will march westward on Constitution Avenue between 7th and 23rd streets from 2 to 5 p.m. The staging area will block 7th Street near The Mall.

All associated street closures for the parade should be clear by 6 p.m.

There will be many other events across the region during the holiday weekend. Some of the parades will block streets and bring about localized congestion. See WTOP's 2013 Memorial Day events around the region for a rundown of the festivities.

Metro Track Work

Since Monday is a federal holiday, Metro will continuing its track work through system closing on Monday night.

Two segments of the Red and Orange lines will be closed. Free shuttle buses will ferry riders around the work zones, but Metro says some customers could experience delays of up to 40 minutes.

Red Line

  • Buses replace trains between Shady Grove and Twinbrook.
  • Shady Grove and Rockville stations will be closed.
  • Buses riders should expect a 10- to 20-minute delay.

Consider driving to/parking at Twinbrook, White Flint or Grosvenor instead of Shady Grove.

Orange Line

  • Buses replace trains between Vienna and Ballston.
  • Vienna, Dunn Loring, West Falls Church and East Falls Church stations will be closed.
  • Express buses will run directly between Vienna and East Falls Church, while local buses will stop at all four stations.
  • Delays of up to 25 minutes are possible for customers on express buses and up to 40 minutes on local buses.
  • Trains run at normal intervals between Ballston and New Carrollton.

Memorial Day Traffic and Transit Changes

Since Monday is a federal holiday, morning travel should be easier than usual. It won't take long for the volume to build on I-95 in Virginia and on Route 50 on the Eastern Shore in Maryland, though. Traffic may slow on I-70 east and I-270 south through Frederick County, Md., during the afternoon hours.

There are no guarantees about alternate routes. The bailout traffic will often saturate the most popular work-arounds when the main thoroughfare slows down. Here are some of the most common alternatives to the some of the most heavily traveled routes on holiday weekends.

Metrorail will open at 7 a.m. on Monday and close at midnight. Metro trains and buses will operate on a Sunday schedule.

There will be no MARC or VRE service on Monday.

In Washington, reversible roads and lanes will remain in two-way mode, as they would during off-peak hours. This includes Canal Road, Clara Barton Parkway, Rock Creek Parkway, Connecticut Avenue and 16th Street.

Parking restrictions for residential zones, rush hour lanes and metered spaces will be suspended citywide except near Nationals Park.

Nationals at Home vs. Orioles

The Nationals will host the Baltimore Orioles at 1:05 p.m. Monday. Delays will be possible on South Capitol Street. If you're taking the Metro to Navy Yard, there is no scheduled track work on the Green Line this weekend.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

DC to resurface street during sinkhole repairs

Posted on: Friday 5/24/2013 7:49pm

WASHINGTON (AP) -- District of Columbia officials say a busy road in downtown Washington may remain partially closed through Monday as repairs continue on a sinkhole.

Transportation officials say they will be milling and resurfacing 14th Street NW and nearby roads over the weekend while several lanes remain closed. Officials say the road will be in better shape when it reopens.

Two southbound lanes will remain open to traffic near the site of the sinkhole at 14th and F streets.

Part of the road collapsed at the intersection a few blocks from the White House on Tuesday afternoon leaving a 15-foot hole and damaging a sewer line. Officials say the sewer line built in 1897 is below multiple utilities and old trolley tracks.

Traffic has been diverted for blocks around the intersection.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Graduations to cause weekend traffic delays

Posted on: Friday 5/17/2013 7:19pm

First lady Michelle Obama receives her honarary degree from Bowie State University President Mickey Burnim during the university's graduation ceremony at the Comcast Center Friday, May 17, 2013 in College Park. Obama addressed the 600 graduates of Maryland's oldest historically black university and one of the ten oldest in the country. The University of Maryland will hold its own commencement ceremony Sunday. (Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/)

WASHINGTON - Regular weekend drivers on Interstate 95 will begin to notice heavier traffic in the weekends ahead. Summer vacation is fast approaching and so too are summer-like delays on the highway between the Washington suburbs and beach destinations.

In addition to road work and beach traffic, area universities will hold commencement ceremonies this weekend adding to the weekend traffic volume and track work will cause delays for Metro riders.

Don't expect to avoid the daytime delays on I-95 by traveling overnight. Overlapping construction projects in Virginia will slow drivers even during off-peak hours.

The I-95 Shoulder Improvement Project will narrow traffic down to one lane on Friday and Saturday nights in Prince William County. Crews are scheduled to block two right lanes on the southbound side between the truck rest area and Dumfries. They will also erect a northbound work zone between Potomac Mills and the Prince William Parkway. This work will take place between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. Delays will be most intense in the hour or two after the work zone sets up.

The project, with a price tag of $40 million, seeks to improve the shoulders and merge areas along a seven-mile stretch of I-95 through Prince William County.

The shoulder work on the right side will coincide with the 95 Express Lanes Extension Project in the center of the highway.

The HOV lanes will be closed on Interstate 395 and I-95 from Washington D.C. to Dumfries, Va., at 11 p.m. Friday. The lanes will reopen to southbound travel around 10 a.m. Saturday. The northern end of the HOV lanes on I-395 will be closed through the day. The entire highway will reopen to northbound travel around 10 a.m. Sunday.

The orientation of the HOV lanes on Saturday will put a strain on northbound traffic in the main lanes, which will likely be congested from Stafford County to Springfield.

When completed in 2015, the project will manage congestion by adding capacity to the highway and extending the length of the express lanes into northern Stafford County.

River Crossings

There are also a few projects scheduled on or near the city's Potomac and Anacostia river crossings this weekend.

From the outbound Roosevelt Bridge lanes, the ramp to the George Washington Parkway northbound will be closed for repairs on Saturday and Sunday. The work will occur between 4 a.m. through late afternoon both days.

DDOT will block the ramp from inbound Pennsylvania Avenue to southbound D.C. Route 295 through the weekend. All traffic that bypasses the exit to northbound Route 295/Kenilworth Avenue will continue inbound across the Sousa Bridge toward Barney Circle. The closure for repair work is scheduled to last until 5 a.m Monday morning.

The Frederick Douglass Bridge's swing span will be tested this weekend. The routine testing is scheduled to occur on Sunday between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Normally the monthly test does not cause a major disruption. However, last month, a power outage during routine bridge testing caused the swing span to get stuck in the open position for several hours longer than intended.

Maine Avenue's eastbound lanes will be closed near the Southeast Freeway between the Tidal Basin and the Case Bridge for repaving. The lanes heading away from Independence Avenue will be blocked beginning around 9 p.m. Friday and will remain closed through Sunday morning.

Metrorail Track Work

Riders on the Blue and Yellow lines will enjoy a reprieve from track work this weekend. However, customers using other sections of the Metrorail system will face delays and detours. Weekend work will close five stations: two on the Orange Line and three on the Green Line. Trains will single-track on two segments of the Red Line through the city.

Orange Line

  • Buses replace trains between East Falls Church and Clarendon
  • Ballston and Virginia Square stations will be closed
  • Trains will operate at regular weekend intervals outside the work zone

Red Line

  • Trains will single track between Van Ness and Dupont Circle
  • Trains will single track between Rhode Island Avenue and Takoma
  • Trains will operate at 10-minute to 24-minute intervals

Green Line

  • Buses will replace Green Line trains between Greenbelt and West Hyattsville
  • Greenbelt, College Park and Prince George's Plaza stations will be closed
  • Trains will operate at regular weekend intervals outside the work zone


Many of the region's biggest schools will celebrate commencement ceremonies this weekend.

The 46th annual George Mason University commencement begins at 10 a.m., Saturday, at the Patriot Center. Expect delays on Route 123 and along Braddock Road before and after the ceremony.

A recent construction project at this intersection has sought to improve the traffic flow to and from university parking lots. Backups are common along Braddock Road between Shirley Gate Road and Roberts Road during the school year and before events at the Patriot Center.

Georgetown University will host parents and graduates for its ceremonies on the Healy Lawn beginning at 9:00 a.m. Expect early delays across the Key Bridge and throughout Georgetown.

George Washington University will conduct its ceremony at 9:30 a.m., Sunday. The ceremony will conclude at 11:30 a.m. Shuttle buses will ferry most attendees to and from the campus but heavier traffic will be possible between the National Mall and the West End before and after the event.

The University of Maryland commencement will take place about 1 p.m., Sunday at the Comcast Center. Doors open at 11 a.m. Delays are likely on U.S. Route 1 through College Park and on the Beltway between College Park and Greenbelt before and after the ceremony.

The College Park Metro station will be closed this weekend.

Taste of Arlington

Taste of Arlington is this Sunday in Ballston. Foodies, musicians and street performers will come together between noon and 5 p.m. near the Ballston Common Mall.

A small stretch of Wilson Boulevard will be blocked for the event between Randolph Street and Glebe Road. The primary routes through Ballston including Fairfax Drive, Washington Boulevard and Glebe Road will remain open. Drivers should stay alert near crosswalks for pedestrians.

The Ballston and Virginia Square Metro stations will be closed this weekend for track work. WMATA will provide shuttle bus service to the Ballston station on Sunday during the festival.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when the University of Maryland will hold its graduation ceremony. Commencement is Sunday.

Follow Dave Dildine and @WTOPtraffic on Twitter.

Red Line service restored after fire, smoke Tuesday

Posted on: Wednesday 5/15/2013 5:38am

A traffic camera captures smoke pouring out of a Metro train stopped at the Silver Spring station Tuesday evening. (WTOP)

WASHINGTON - Metro has resumed service along the Red Line following a report of smoke and fire under a railcar at the Silver Spring station Tuesday.

Metro says the fire is believed to be mechanical in nature.

Silver Spring station fully reopened to riders leaving and coming to the station and trains were no longer single-tracking Tuesday night at about 9:20 p.m.

Metro's website reported no Red Line delays early Wednesday morning.

Smoke and a possible fire under a railcar at the station were reported just after 6 p.m. No one was on the train at the time and no injuries have been reported, according to Metro.

The fire was out before 7 p.m.

Based on preliminary information, Montgomery County Assistant Fire Chief Scott Graham says the fire started when a collector shoe overheated. The booms that many riders reported hearing were caused when the insulators combusted.

Metro rider Zachary Kulzer believes he was on the train that caught fire in Silver Spring.

He was riding the Red Line home to Silver Spring from his job in Dupont Circle Tuesday evening when things started to go wrong between the Fort Totten and Takoma stations.

In an interview with WTOP and ABC 7, Kulzer said he saw sparks turn into fire right outside his train car.

"I'm staring out my window and the flames are right there, and someone behind me screamed. There was smoke," said Kulzer.

At that point, he wanted out.

"Obviously when we get to Takoma station ... I'm getting the hell off this train because I'm not going to wait for it to catch on fire again."

Kulzer says someone alerted the train operator to what happened, and all the passengers were offloaded at the Takoma station.

As Kulzer boarded the next train, he heard the operator announce that a train had caught fire at the Silver Spring station and they weren't going any further.

He thinks the train that caught fire is the same one he had been riding in.

Metro spokeswoman Caroline Lukas could not confirm that.

"I'm not certain when exactly the issue began. I do know that the train was offloaded prior to entering Silver Spring," Lukas said.

This video captures fire flareups coming from a Metro train at the Silver Spring station Tuesday.

WTOP's Kate Ryan and Michelle Basch contributed to this report. Follow @WTOPtraffic and @WTOP on Twitter.

  • 11