Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Get ready for a major pain in the neck because of Metro’s year-long maintenance plan whether you ride the rail or not.

That was the message District officials tried to get across at a gathering outside the Eastern Market Metro station on Thursday afternoon, when they discussed planned traffic mitigations for SafeTrack, which begins on Saturday along a segment of the Orange and Silver lines in Virginia. Though only three of the 15 repair surges associated with the plan will take place in D.C. proper, Mayor Muriel Bowser said SafeTrack will “affect every single commuter,” requiring them to make alternative preparations for getting around.

The first surge that will occur in the District itself commences on June 18, covering the Orange, Blue, and Silver lines from the Minnesota Avenue/Benning Road to Eastern Market stations. Metro will shut down rails on that stretch for 16 days. It’s expected to affect 230,000 riders, the mayor noted.

“Imagine a road, two-lane highway from here to Richmond, no exits, no entrances, half is above ground, half is below ground, it hasn’t been [maintained properly], it’s full of potholes, and you have to fix it,” Metro board chair and Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans said. “That is the challenge we have. That is why we are doing SafeTrack.”

Bowser and District Department of Transportation Director Leif Dormsjo outlined the following mitigation strategies:

  • No-parking restrictions will be expanded near eight “priority” bus corridors. In the morning, restrictions will last from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m., and in the evening from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Certain routes will have all-day restrictions. Dormsjo explained that DDOT would prioritize east-west bus routes in June and north-south routes in August.

  • More traffic-control officers at “critical intersections” to facilitate the extra bus service that’s part of SafeTrack

  • A moratorium on public-space construction on certain corridors, to help ease congestion

  • $2 per hour trips of up to 30 minutes on Capital Bikeshare, with expanded bike capacity around surge areas

  • A traffic-control center staffed by DDOT, D.C. police, and homeland security/emergency response officials

  • Case-by-case telecommuting for D.C. government employees, depending on agency and services performed

  • Potential designated taxi stands for people to carpool instead of taking individual cabs

  • A possible extension of D.C. Circulator service until 3 a.m. on weekends and possible route expansion.

“The single best thing we can do to move more buses and ultimately more vehicles is to provide for more lane capacity,” Dormsjo said, when asked about the prolonged parking restrictions and “choke points” that could arise. Bowser repeatedly mentioned that District roads are already congested; thus residents should consider alternatives. Asked about how much the mitigation strategies could cost taxpayers, the mayor said funding for more traffic-control officers is included in the most recent city budget and that the District would absorb impacts from parking “just fine.”

“Metro is worth everything to our economy,” she added. “We need a smooth functioning Metro system and this [plan] will get us to a state of good repair.” Still, Evans said work will remain: “I want to caution everybody not to expect a brand new system a year from now, but to have a system that is better than the system we have today.”

“In the end, with the numbers we’re projecting, not everybody is going to be able to ride Metro as they normally do,” Metro Acting Chief Operating Officer Jack Requa said. “It’s won’t be easy… It’s going to be crowded, and it’s going to be slow.”