Image by Rich Renomeron licensed under Creative Commons.

Metro is planning to shut down the six Yellow and Blue Line stations south of National Airport for 100 days next summer, which certainly won’t be easy. The agency estimates the shutdown will impact 17,000 riders. WMATA is planning on running four shuttle bus routes between the affected stations, and is working with local partners to beef up existing routes.

Graphic showing the bus shuttles Metro plans to run during the 2019 shutdown. Image from WMATA.

Braddock Road, King Street, Van Dorn, Franconia, Eisenhower, and Huntington stations will be closed all of next summer from May 25 until September 2, 2019 to let Metro do some major work at the stations. The platforms are—quite literally—falling apart, and Metro hopes to be able to replace the platforms at Braddock Road, King Street, and Eisenhower during the summer shutdown. The other three will be replaced later in the year after the six stations reopen.

Because it has three tracks, National Airport Metrorail station will stay open during next summer’s major shutdown, and trains are expected to run at or close to normal service. After Metro reopens the six stations on September 2, Blue Line trains will single-track between Van Dorn and Franconia-Springfield for the entire month as the Van Dorn platform is rebuilt, running only every 24 minutes (that's a third of the number of trains that run during rush hour).

Trains will single-track into Franconia between October and December 2019 when the Franconia-Springfield platform is rebuilt. National Airport and Huntington station platforms are scheduled to be rebuilt between January and May 2020. Metro says there will be “no significant service impacts” when these three platforms are worked on.

Draft table of shuttle bus service spans and frequencies during next summer’s shutdown. Image from WMATA.

Four shuttle buses are planned to run to move passengers around the shutdown area throughout the summer shutdown:

  • Shuttle 1 will run from Franconia-Springfield to Pentagon
  • Shuttle 2 will run between Franconia-Springfield, Van Dorn, King Street, and National Airport
  • Shuttle 3 will run from Huntington to Pentagon
  • Shuttle 4 will run between Huntington, Eisenhower, King Street, and Crystal City

The four shuttle routes will be in addition to the existing bus routes in the area, which Metro says will have additional service. For instance, the agency expects all buses on the 11Y route into DC to be operated with articulated buses in order to transport as many passengers as possible.

Planning with other local transportation agencies is ongoing, but it appears that others will offer more bus service as well. Fairfax Connector is considering running the 393/394 express routes from Springfield to Pentagon every 10 minutes during morning and evening peak periods. DASH is evaluating its trolley shuttle every 15 minutes, and OmniRide is looking at adding a new route from Dale City to Eisenhower Avenue as well as adding service on the Prince William Metro Direct bus up to Pentagon.

Existing transportation projects aren’t taking a break for Metro

The numerous, varied transportation projects already underway won’t be going anywhere soon, and aren’t letting up just because Metro is also doing work next summer. The 395 Express Lanes project which aims to convert two HOV lanes to tolled Express Lanes from 95 up to the DC border expects to wrap up work late next year, but will continue during Metro’s shutdown. Two of Metro’s bus shuttles, as well as several existing bus routes, use 395 to travel through Arlington, and it’s not uncommon for buses to be delayed from various issues that crop up on the road.

Construction on the Memorial Bridge, which is expected to finish up in 2021, reduced the number of lanes on the bridge from six down to three, limiting the amount of extra traffic it can carry. Riders who try hopping into their cars to find their way around the Metro shutdown will have fewer ways than usual to get into the District without ending up in the traffic congestion that so many fear.

Based on data from SafeTrack and earlier shutdowns, Metro expects around 60% of the riders affected by the major shutdown—about 17,000 people—will use the bus shuttles and alternatives in place, although the percentage likely fluctuates at the beginning of the work zone while people figure out their best option. The other 40% could drive, try ridehailing, carpool, take VRE, telework, or use some other option.

No matter how the affected rider base decides to get around during the shutdown, the situation is certainly a unique one for Metro and the Washington region as a whole. Never has the agency shut down this large a section of its network for so long. Similarly, never has the region had a better opportunity to come together to make major steps in improving public transit for both during—and after—the Metro shutdown comes and goes.

Metro Reasons is a regular breaking news, investigative reporting, and analysis column by Stephen Repetski about everything Metro. Please send tips to Metro Reasons.

Stephen Repetski is a Virginia native and has lived in the Fairfax area for over 20 years. He has a BS in Applied Networking and Systems Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology and works in Information Technology. Learning about, discussing, and analyzing transit (especially planes and trains) is a hobby he enjoys.