Tips on getting to FedEx Field for Thursday football

Washington’s preseason game at FedEx Field on Thursday night is a chance for football fans to get reacquainted with travel conditions. (Robert Thomson/The Washington Post)

Washington’s preseason opener Thursday night against the New England Patriots at FedEx Field in Landover is a chance for fans to work their travel habits into regular season shape when the traffic and transit crowds are probably going to be at their lightest.

For longtime fans, old habits will quickly reassert themselves, but for some coming from Virginia there will be a new travel option. This is the first game at FedEx since the five new Silver Line stations opened in Fairfax County. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., so watch for some extra late-afternoon traffic around the new parking garage at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, just north of the Dulles Toll Road on Wiehle Avenue.

More transit tips
Metrorail will stay open an extra hour Thursday night, an expense that the team covers. After the game, fans can use either the Morgan Boulevard or Largo Town Center stations, but get there by 12:20 a.m. to catch the last Blue or Silver Line trains to Franconia-Springfield or Wiehle-Reston East. The other stations entrances will close around midnight, as they normally do, but riders still will be able to leave the stations during the extended service.

Morgan Boulevard is the closest station 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 and Silver lines, 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 long lines at fare vending machines after games.

A weeknight game mingles stadium traffic with commuter traffic in the Landover area.

The FedEx parking areas open four hours before game time, and the stadium opens two hours before games. Before and after stadium events, traffic surges on Landover Road, Central Avenue, Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Southeast-Southwest Freeway, Interstate 295/D.C. 295 and the eastern side of the Capital Beltway.

Football traffic 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. Central Avenue, the southernmost of the three exits, is the one that the Maryland Highway Administration recommends to minimize delays.

The highway administration also suggests that drivers going west on Central Avenue consider bypassing the right turn onto Brightseat Road and turning right instead on Morgan Boulevard to reach their permit parking areas.

On the Beltway in Landover, through traffic should stay as far left as possible. 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.

Don’t expect to see huge burgundy-and-gold signs along the Beltway marking the exits nearest the field. You’re looking for standard green-and-white highway signs designating the off-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 and in the parking lots.

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 Gray Lot).

Drivers parking at the Morgan Boulevard or Landover stations for games will be charged a $15 fee. Commuters or anyone else who used Metrorail during the day will pay only the regular parking rate of $5.10, but be sure to use the same SmarTrip card for the train trip and the parking. And you can’t just take a short ride to Largo Town Center, Morgan Boulevard, Addison Road, Capitol Heights or Benning Road to qualify for the regular parking rate. That means, as a prime example, that if you park at Largo Town Center and take a ride to Morgan Boulevard, you still will be charged $15 for the parking.

The premium parking rate is in effect from three hours before the game till two hours afterward.

Drivers arriving early at the station parking areas are likely to find them more crowded than they would for a weekend game, because of the commuter parking.

If parking at the big new Fairfax County garage on Wiehle Avenue, the parking rate is $4.85 on weekdays, payable with SmarTrip cards or credit cards.

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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