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Local officials warn of impacts from upcoming, months-long Yellow Line shutdown

Yellow Line Metro bridge over the Potomac (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Local officials are concerned that major work on the Yellow Line, starting in September, will cause significant problems — and are asking Metro to come up with solutions.

Last week, WMATA announced that the Yellow Line tunnel and bridge crossing the Potomac will shut down starting September 10 for up to eight months due to much-needed rehab work.

Additionally, for six weeks, rail service south of National Airport will also be shut down to continue work on the new Potomac Yard station.

The shutdown announcements were not unexpected. About a year ago Metro said its plan was to fast track the work, warning that the bridge was “beyond its useful life.” In October, Metro said riders should expect the shutdown to happen by fall 2022. At the time, though, timelines and the duration of the shutdown wasn’t entirely clear.

Now, we know that Metro is expecting seven to eight months of severely-reduced service. The Yellow Line won’t return to full operations until at least April or May 2023.

While Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) concedes that the work is very necessary, he’s concerned the long shutdown will cause major delays and disruptions for local commuters, as he wrote in a statement last week.

Announcements of the upcoming completion and opening of the Potomac Yard station and the Silver Line Extension are both good news for the region, and will bring substantial benefits to Northern Virginia.

The construction work needed to finish the Potomac Yard station and the closure of the Yellow Line tunnel over the Potomac for safety maintenance will result in major commute disruptions for many of my constituents beginning in September. I am especially concerned for those who commute through the Huntington and Eisenhower Ave. stations, and increased bus service from WMATA and its regional partners will be key to minimizing the impacts on these riders. I urge WMATA to maximize Blue Line service to the extent possible to help compensate for increased traffic as Yellow Line riders shift their commutes during this work.

Capital projects and infrastructure maintenance are important to provide safe, reliable service to the region, but especially given the recent disruptions from the pandemic and 7000 series car issues, it is vital that WMATA do everything possible to look out for riders affected by this work.

Christian Dorsey, County Board Vice-Chair and former WMATA board member, said in a statement to ARLnow that he’s asking WMATA for solutions, in particular requesting the agency to work with Arlington Transit to provide bus alternatives to train service.

WMATA’s closure of the Yellow Line between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations in September reflects both valuable and necessary investments in our transportation infrastructure and a tremendous disruption to transit riders. The shutdown will come at a most unfortunate time as our region attempts to return to our pre pandemic normal. WMATA must increase Blue Line service to the greatest extent possible, but even then, the capacity limitations of the Rosslyn crossing mean that the transit experience to the Pentagon, our National Landing activity centers, and to National Airport will be degraded. To mitigate these impacts, we need WMATA to provide sufficient increases in bus service crossing the Potomac and to work with transit providers like Arlington Transit (ART) to offer comparable alternatives to the vital service the Yellow Line provides.

Both Metro and Arlington Transit tell ARLnow that they are working together to “develop travel alternatives,” but specific plans will not be announced until the Yellow Line construction plans are finalized.

More information isn’t expected until “early summer,” according to Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors.

In 2021, an average of more than 10,000 riders used one of the four Arlington Yellow Line stations (Reagan National Airport, Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Pentagon) on a daily basis, according to Metro statistics.

Arlington’s neighbor Alexandria is also preparing for the shutdowns, particularly as it relates to the new Potomac Yard station on the Yellow Line. Service is supposed to start in the fall, but Metro’s announcement noted that work to connect the tracks to the rest of the rail system will take until the end of October.

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