The Washington Redskins home opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon will add yet another element to the seasonal traffic surge we refer to as September Shock. Newcomers need to get used to the approaches to FedEx Field in Landover, and even the veteran fans may encounter something new along the way.
One piece of travel advice has remained the same over the seasons: Get there early. The parking areas open four hours before game time, and the stadium gates open two hours before kickoff.
Some football fans who get a late start for the 1 p.m. game in Landover may find themselves sharing the roads and rails with the baseball crowd on its way to Nationals Park, where the game starts at 1:35 p.m.
The Capital Weather Gang says everyone should enjoy a fine day, although the gang recommends bringing a jacket, because the afternoon may feel a bit brisk despite the sunshine.
Here’s some advice in getting to FedEx Field for newcomers, old-timers and those simply trying to avoid the congestion..
In the late morning and early afternoon, and then again in the late afternoon, watch for extra traffic on Landover Road, Central Avenue, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the Southeast-Southwest Freeway, the Anacostia Freeway and the eastern side of the Capital Beltway. Traffic in the Landover area will be at its worst in the two hours before kickoff.
Three Beltway interchanges at Landover Road, Arena Drive and Central Avenue offer access to FedEx Field. As game time approaches, the Landover Road and Arena Drive exits tend to be the most crowded, especially Landover Road. Central Avenue, the southernmost of the three exits, is the one that the Maryland State Highway Administration recommends to minimize delays.
SHA also suggests that drivers going west on Central Avenue consider bypassing the right turn onto Brightseat Road in favor of turning right on Morgan Boulevard to reach their permit parking areas.
Drivers who take the northern arc of the Beltway will again go through the work zone on the Northwest Branch bridge in Silver Spring, but the traffic pattern is different: Three lanes go right around the work zone barrier and one goes left. Something hasn’t changed: There’s still a speed camera in that area, and the speed limit is still 55 mph.
One of the routes I’ve recommended for some Northern Virginia drivers is to come across the 14th Street bridge on the Southeast-Southwest Freeway, cross the Anacostia River via Pennsylvania Avenue, pick up Minnesota Avenue SE, turn right on B Street SE, right again on East Capitol Street, which becomes Central Avenue, and then take Morgan Boulevard north to the stadium.
Drivers everywhere should watch their speeds, but there’s been a lot of buzz lately about the D.C. speed cameras along the freeways. Use this link to see the speed camera locations.
This season, some drivers will notice traffic pattern changes on the Southeast Freeway. The westbound freeway between Pennsylvania Avenue and Eighth Street SE is down to a single lane. By November, this westbound stretch will be completely closed. In January, the eastbound lanes also will be closed. It’s part of a major reconstruction project related to the expansion of the nearby 11th Street Bridge.
As the season develops, freeway drivers in this area may find they can take advantage of new ramps directly linking the Southeast Freeway and D.C. 295 via the 11th Street Bridge. The outbound ramp leading to northbound D.C. 295 could open by the end of the month. The inbound ramp from southbound 295 to the bridge and the Southeast Freeway opened this summer.
Don’t expect to see huge burgundy and gold signs along the Beltway marking the exits nearest FedEx Field. You’re looking mainly for the regular old green and white information signs designating the off-ramps.
Through traffic should stay as far left as possible, as the right lanes will slow. Approaching the stadium area, Beltway drivers will notice a solid white line separating through lanes on the left from the collector-distributor lanes on the right that lead to off-ramps and on-ramps.
As drivers get onto the roads nearest the stadium, they will see overhead arrows and color-coded markers indicating lanes leading to the permit parking areas. Pay attention to the traffic directions from the stadium staffers out in the roads.
The lots closest to the stadium are open to permit holders only. The permits cover one parking space and can’t be used for additional tailgating room.
There are several cash lots off Jericho City Drive, to the southeast of the stadium, and one north of the stadium, just west of Brightseat Road and south of Landover Road.
The Blue Line’s Morgan Boulevard station is the closest to FedEx. The stadium is a little less than a mile north along a sidewalk. The walk to the stadium is slightly uphill. Largo Town Center station, also on the Blue Line, is the next closest. Make sure you have your SmarTrip card or paper Farecard loaded for a round trip so you won’t have to wait in a line at fare vending machines after games.
Parking is free on weekends at Metrorail lots and garages, other than the Morgan Boulevard or Largo Town Center stations. Drivers who park at those stations to go to FedEx must pay $25 with a SmarTrip card. The reusable cards cost $5.
The premium fee for parking is in effect from three hours before the game till two hours afterward.
Metro doesn’t allow tailgating in its parking areas.
A fan who takes Metrorail only to avoid football traffic will notice that the fare is higher this season, and there's now a one dollar surcharge every time a paper Farecard is used.
Metro weekend work: On the Red Line, free shuttle buses will replace trains between Grosvenor and Friendship Heights. Traveling through the work zone will add about a half hour to a normal rail trip on Sunday.
On the Orange Line, trains will share tracks between East Falls Church and Ballston, and between Stadium-Armory and Cheverly. That will add about 15 minutes to travel times.