A major service disruption looms for Metro's Orange and Blue Lines. As we've mentioned here before, the transit agency will be shutting down the Smithsonian and Federal Triangle stations from 10 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18, through the Monday holiday. There will be no service between Metro Center and L'Enfant Plaza, two of the system's most important transfer stations.
At the Smithsonian station this morning, Metro planning director Jim Hughes explained what the work will involve and why Metro decided to do it on that particular weekend. As we all know, any holiday weekend is going to bring a crush of tourists to the Smithsonian. But there are vastly fewer people going through that Blue/Orange stretch compared to a weekday, and the 3-day weekend gives them an extra day to bang out the necessary work. Metro is doing major overhauls like this one at a number of stations, and they wanted to get the Smithsonian station done before spring and summer tourist season.
As for the work itself, the agency will have people working around the clock to replace track switches, rehab escalators and elevators, iron out some insulator problems that have led to track fires, and improve the station lighting, among other things. Between the Smithsonian and Federal Triangle stations are what's known as crossover tracks -- basically the tracks form an X, allowing the trains to pass to either side in the event of a closure or emergency -- and the agency will essentially be ripping out all that track and replacing it.
"Instead of having eight single-track weekends, we'll do it in a 3-day weekend," Hughes said. "Strategically, it's very involved... It's a fairly intensive work effort."
Metro will be running free shuttle buses around the closure, but your other option will be a double transfer, going through Gallery Place-Chinatown between L'Enfant Plaza and Metro Center. Hughes said taking the bus or the double transfer will take about the same amount of time, so you may want to consider the weather a bit. (If it's cold and miserable out, it might be better to stay below ground.)
Hughes urged us to remind people heading out late Friday night that Smithsonian and Federal Triangle will be closing at 10 p.m. Also, because of the attendant delays at Metro Center and L'Enfant Plaza, you'll need to move up your late-night departure times throughout the weekend. The last trains will be pulling out about twenty minutes earlier than usual for each station.