The week ahead: Monday night football, Thursday night tree lighting

December 3, 2012

A large crowd gathers to watch the Obama family preside over the 89th National Christmas Tree lighting in 2011. (Katherine Frey –The Washington Post)

[This post has been updated.]

Travelers will find temperatures way above normal in the D.C. area during the first part of the week. The Capital Weather Gang thinks the best chances for rain come early Wednesday and on Saturday.

That’s a good forecast for the Redskins-Giants game in Landover on Monday night and for the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony Thursday. It also means that road crews will be out trying to get work done  before the temperature turns cold again.

Join me at noon for our weekly discussion of local traffic and transit issues.

Football Monday at FedEx Field

Metro will stay open past its normal midnight closing time Monday to get fans home from FedEx Field after the Redskins game with the New York Giants. (The Redskins pay for the extra time.)

Also, the 8:30 p.m. kickoff means that football fans will be sharing the roads and rails with commuters, generating extra congestion.

If heading to the game, try to get there early. The parking lots open four hours before kickoff. If you’re a Capital Beltway commuter just trying to get home, stay left as you travel through the Landover area to avoid the game traffic, which will be using three exits in that area.

After the game, fans heading south from FedEx Field to the Morgan Boulevard Metro station should get there in time to catch the last Blue Line train headed toward Franconia-Springfield at 12:25 a.m., and the last Blue Line train to Largo Town Center at 1:33 a.m.

Make the connection to the Orange Line by transferring at Stadium-Armory. Line to the Green and Yellow lines by transferring at L’Enfant Plaza, and get to the Red Line at Metro Center.

Entrances at all other Metro stations besides Morgan Boulevard will close at their normal times. But the riders on the trains will be able to exit at all stations during the added hour of service.

Christmas tree

It’s time for the festive holiday event that darkens the mood of many D.C. commuters, the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the Ellipse. It’s scheduled for Thursday, starting at 4:30 p.m.

Ninety years of tradition says that the large gathering has to occur as the evening rush hour goes into full swing. Drivers and bus riders will leave work and head smack into detours around the White House and Ellipse. The effects on traffic will ripple out from there and slow travel through much of downtown.

Beginning at about 4:15 p.m. on Thursday till the ceremonies are done around 7 p.m. there will be no northbound or southbound traffic allowed on 15th Street NW between E Street/ Pennsylvania Avenue and Constitution Avenue, or on 17th Street NW between Constitution Avenue and New York Avenue.

Arlington Memorial Bridge

From 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays, watch for temporary lane closings on the Arlington Memorial Bridge in both directions. The maintenance project is scheduled to be done this month.

George Washington Parkway

The left lane on the northbound George Washington Parkway remains closed between Key Bridge and Spout Run. Additional lane closings may reduce the number of travel lanes to one between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. weekdays.

Beltway/Telegraph Road

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project  has scheduled a lot of night work for the Capital Beltway’s Telegraph Road interchange.

From 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Wednesday nights:

  • Telegraph Road South will be narrowed to one lane between the bridge over the railroad tracks and the Cameron Run bridge at 9 p.m., then it will be completely closed at 11 p.m.
  • Telegraph Road North will be narrowed to one lane between Huntington Avenue and the bridge over the tracks at 9 p.m, then completely closed at 11 p.m.
  • The ramps from Telegraph Road South and Telegraph Road North to the Beltway will be closed.
  • The ramps from the Beltway to Telegraph Road will be closed.
  • The ramps from Duke Street East and West to Telegraph Road South will be closed.
  • Mill Road access to Telegraph Road South will be closed.
  • Pershing Avenue West access to Telegraph Road North will be closed.

From 9 p.m. Monday to 5 a.m. Tuesday: The outer loop will be narrowed between Van Dorn Street and Telegraph Road. One lane will be closed at 9 p.m. and a second at 11 p.m.

From 9 p.m. Tuesday to 9 p.m. Wednesday: North Kings Highway will be closed in both directions between Kathryn Street and Telegraph Road. Use Route 1. The outer loop exit to North Kings Highway also will be closed.

Speed limits rising

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced Friday that he will allow the District Department of Transportation to raise speed limits on two roadways well-known to commuters: Benning Road between Oklahoma and Kenilworth avenues, and D.C. 295. That could happen as early as this week.

The limit on Benning Road will be raised to 35 mph and on D.C. 295 to 50 mph. DDOT said in an announcement that raising the limit on D.C. 295 will make it consistent with the maximum speed from the Maryland border at Eastern Avenue to the junction of Interstate 295 with the Capital Beltway near the the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Until you see new signs, the speed limit on Benning Road is 30 mph, and on D.C. 295, it varies between 45 and 50.

New Freeway ramp

The District Department of Transportation has made several changes in the commuter traffic patterns near the Anacostia River in connection with the 11th Street Bridge project.

A new ramp connecting 11th Street SE with the westbound Southeast-Southwest Freeway opened Thursday. Drivers on Capitol Hill can use this for easier access from local streets onto the freeway. It will also provide more direct access to the freeway for Anacostia residents who use the local span of the 11th Street Bridge. And it should help the traffic leaving the Navy Yard in the evening.

Freeway Reroute

The other big change affects commuters who drive across the Sousa Bridge to swing from Pennsylvania Avenue SE onto the westbound side of the Southeast Freeway.

The westbound side of the freeway is now closed between Pennsylvania Avenue and Eighth Street SE. It will stay closed for 18 to 20 months while workers raise the roadway and convert it into a boulevard, with connections to local streets.

Commuters should now head south on D.C. 295 to the 11th Street Bridge and use that to cross the Anacostia River, where they pick up the Southeast-Southwest Freeway.

Around the end of the year, the eastbound lanes of the Southeast Freeway to the Sousa Bridge also will be closed for the boulevard construction project, but by then, the new ramp from the outbound span of the 11th Street Bridge to northbound D.C. 295 should be open, giving commuters a more direct freeway connection than they had before the project began.

D.C. parking summit

The District Department of Transportation plans to hold a citywide forum Tuesday night to report on the feedback it received during a round of community meetings about how street parking should be managed.

Transportation officials will review what they heard and discuss how the public comments may fit into the development of a comprehensive plan for parking.

The summit is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. at 441 Fourth St. NW. For those who don’t want to park, Judiciary Square is the nearest Metro station.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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