Metro will shut down Arlington National Cemetery for platform improvements next spring, and construction will impact Alexandria commuters.
But with ridership at a prolonged and historic low, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority assured City Council on Tuesday night that it will be able accommodate inconvenienced travelers with increased shuttle service between the Pentagon and Rosslyn stations.
The Arlington Cemetery station will be closed from mid-February until mid-May. All blue line trains will be diverted to L’Enfant Plaza across the 14th Street Bridge, and Metro is adding trains to allow for a six minute wait time instead of 12 minutes. Metro anticipates it taking an extra four to 12 minutes for customers traveling to stations between Farragut West and Rosslyn and that there are potential travel time improvements for customers going to Federal Triangle or Metro Center.
“It’s interesting times and it’s anybody’s guess what the future is going to be, but right now we’re looking at system-wide between 10 and 12% of our normal Metrorail ridership, and the Virginia side tends to be on the lower side of that,” Peter Cafiero, Metro’s managing director of inter-modal planning told Council. “What we’re hearing from employers is it’s going to be awhile before anybody’s considering going back.”
Council approved a letter thanking WMATA for making transportation alternatives available.
“If we were in a normal ridership situation I think I would be saying that we need bus alternatives, particularly to get folks from Alexandria to Rosslyn, or potentially west for those folks who are doing those commutes,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “But given where we’re at… I just don’t know where we’re going to be when this when this goes on next year.”
Alexandria is familiar with the platform improvement project, as all four of its stations were shut down as part of it in the summer of 2019.
In the meantime, Metro faces making hundreds of millions in spending cuts, including altering services, schedule changes and layoffs. The transit system’s board chair says it will be forced to make tough decisions if federal CARES Act funding dries up.
“As tough as these choices are for this fiscal year, much deeper and more painful cuts will be required for the next fiscal year if federal relief doesn’t arrive in time,” said Metro Board Chair Paul Smedberg, who is a former member of the Alexandria City Council. “We hope people who depend on Metro will come forward to share their views about the proposed changes before the Board makes a final decision in November.”