Many football fans heading for the Redskins home opener Sunday think of the season in terms of challenges awaiting a rookie quarterback, the defensive schemes of opponents and the impact of injuries on the standings.
I think of the season as eight commutes to Landover. So I want to help fans with some travel tips for newcomers and refreshers for FedEx Field veterans.
Traffic and transit impacts vary with the timing of games. The Redskins and the Bengals square off at FedEx Field at 1 p.m. Sunday, in the first of eight home games through Dec. 30. Most of this season’s home games start at 1 p.m. on Sundays, but there is a Monday night game, against the Giants, at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 3. And there’s a 4:15 p.m. start on Sunday, Oct. 14.
The Redskins will be in Tampa next weekend, but at noon Saturday, the stadium hosts a college football game between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Events at FedEx that draw many people unfamiliar with roads and transit in the D.C. area can generate a lot of congestion. While Redskins fans may need some refreshers, the out-of-towners can be utterly confused about which lane to be in on the Beltway, how soon to make a turn on Central Avenue or where to stand on a Metro escalator.
The FedEx parking areas open four hours before game time, and the stadium opens two hours before games. One bit of advice never varies: Get there early. The stadium doesn’t have the transit options of a downtown location such as Verizon Center or Nationals Park, so drivers have a lot of competition in the travel lanes on game days.
Before and after stadium events, traffic surges on Landover Road, Central Avenue, Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Southeast-Southwest Freeway, I-295/D.C. 295 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. 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 and turning right instead 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.
Northern Virginia drivers who include Southeast-Southwest Freeway in their approach should note that there are more speed cameras along along the D.C. freeways this year.
If the trip involves crossing the Anacostia River via Pennsylvania Avenue or the 11th Street Bridge, watch for changing traffic patterns. Traffic heading from Pennsylvania Avenue to the Southeast Freeway will be restricted by roadwork. Meanwhile, new ramps to and from the 11th Street Bridge will provide direct freeway connections with D.C. 295. The bridge link from southbound D.C. 295 is open, and the one from the bridge to northbound 295 will open soon.
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.
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 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 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 long lines at fare vending machines after games.
Parking is generally free on weekends at Metrorail lots and garages, but there are special rules for the Morgan Boulevard and Largo Town Center stations during FedEx Field events.
Drivers who park at the 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.
Fans who take Metrorail only during football season to avoid stadium traffic will notice that the fare is higher this season, and there’s now a $1 surcharge every time a paper Farecard is used.