Nation’s Triathlon to affect Sunday traffic

The eighth annual Nation’s Triathlon will create some challenges for travelers as well as athletes Sunday morning and early afternoon. The start time is 7 a.m. Both the start and finish areas are in West Potomac Park.

The event draws tens of thousands of participants as well as many spectators to the running, biking and swimming segments along the Potomac River. Many routes along the shore will close temporarily.

The main change this year is in the bike route. It will take the cyclists from D.C. to Virginia in the HOV lanes of the 14th Street Bridge. They’ll make a U-turn south of the Pentagon.

Nation's Triathlon course 2013 Click to see pdf map of 2013 course on Nation’s Triathlon Web site.

There is some parking in West Potomac Park, but it’s very limited, as it is elsewhere near the course. Street closings in the race area start as early as 5:30 a.m. The best drop-off point for people arriving by car is Constitution Avenue NW. There’s a shuttle for the athletes from the Washington Hilton.

Metrorail opens at its usual time, 7 a.m., so that’s no good for the athletes, but spectators could use these stations for various parts of the event: Smithsonian, L’Enfant Plaza, Foggy Bottom, Arlington Cemetery and Pentagon. Parking at Metro lots and garages is free on weekends.

Street closing details
The closing times generally are 5:30 a.m. to about 1 p.m., but they are subject to prevailing conditions and police discretion.

Closings include: The 14th Street bridge’s outbound HOV lanes, the ramp from southbound I-395 toward Maine Avenue, Potomac River Freeway (I-66 past the Kennedy Center) and the Whitehurst Freeway. See a map of the course, showing additional closings.

This is the bike route, starting at Independence Avenue at West Basin Drive SW:

Turn right onto 14th Street SW, merge left onto 395 HOV lanes (southbound only), U-turn on 395 HOV lanes near South Fern Street, merge onto 14th Street SW, turn left onto Independence Avenue SW, merge onto Ohio Drive SW, merge right onto Potomac River  Freeway, merge right toward E Street/E Street Expressway, turn left onto 20th Street NW, turn left onto E Street NW, merge right onto Potomac River Freeway, merge right onto Whitehurst Freeway, U-turn on Whitehurst near M Street NW, merge right onto Potomac River Freeway, turn right onto Rock Creek Parkway, U-turn at Rock Creek and F Street NW, merge right onto Ohio Drive SW, merge onto Independence Avenue.

Run route, also starting at Independence Avenue SW and West Basin Drive:

Bear right on Maine Avenue SW, turn left on 15th Street SW, turnaround on 15th Street SW, turn left on Maine Avenue SW, turn right on Ohio Drive SW, turn right on East Basin Drive SW, turnaround at East Basin and Ohio Drive SW, turn right on Ohio Drive SW to finish at Ohio Drive and West Basin Drive SW.

Parking details
Event planners note that on race day, parking will be very limited in the area for the start, transition and finish. There is indoor parking about a mile away at the Ronald Reagan Building at Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street NW. Street parking is available around the National Mall. No drop-offs will be permitted on Independence Avenue on race day.

Though the triathlon begins early on a Sunday morning, you still should give yourself extra  time to get there if you’re driving.

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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