Tanger Outlets traffic frustrates neighbors

December 4, 2013
(Luz Lazo – Washington Post).
(Luz Lazo – Washington Post).

The opening of Tanger Outlets at National Harbor last month was a major economic development win for Prince George’s county, but for some county residents who use Oxon Hill Road, the Nov. 22 opening of the 80 outlet stores has meant additional delays to their commutes.

“Traffic on Oxon Hill Road has been a nightmare come true,” said an e-mail sent to residents and county officials by the Indian Head Highway Area Action Council, a group of civic association officers and activists. “A bad situation has been made infinitely worse by poor traffic control and mismanagement.”

Some residents have sent complaints to county leaders and the developer of National Harbor demanding a better strategy for dealing with traffic in the area.  Some say the Prince George’s County Police’s traffic control team has focused on making it easier for shoppers to get around while blocking access to residents who use Oxon Hill Road to get to their  homes.

Residents say that during peak hours, police have closed Oxon Hill Road to all southbound traffic for one block, between National Boulevard and Harborview Avenue, forcing travelers to turn right on National Boulevard toward the Potomac River and drive through National Harbor before being allowed to turn back east on Harborview Avenue in order to return to Oxon Hill Road.

The detour, they said, has added as much as 30 minutes of travel time to their commutes.

William Cavitt, a Fort Washington resident and president of the Indian Head Highway Area Action Council, said he has heard from about two dozen frustrated residents since the weekend. The traffic woes near Tanger will be discussed at a community meeting with county police next week in Oxon Hill, he said.

The additional traffic to the mall comes as area residents adjust to disruptions from a road work project on Oxon Hill Road.  Some residents say that with the ongoing road construction in the corridor the area was not ready to handle the additional outlets traffic.

Lt. William Alexander, of the Prince George’s County Police said traffic near Tanger has been heavy, particularly on the weekends.  Dozens of officers have been assigned to guide traffic in the area since the opening of the shopping mall two weeks ago, he said.

Alexander said when the main parking lot at the shopping center is full, officers reroute drivers from Oxon Hill Road to get them to other parking locations at National Harbor.  He said residents trying to get to their homes should let the traffic officers know and they will let them pass through.

The department “is working to ensure the smooth flow of traffic during the busy holiday season in the Oxon Hill area and ensure to the extent possible that the opening of the new outlet mall is successful while not negatively impacting longstanding members of our community,” he said. “We expect traffic patterns to change once the holiday shopping season winds down.”

Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.
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Robert Thomson · December 4, 2013