Inauguration Day walking guide

Robert Thomson
January 18, 2013

As you prepare to attend the swearing-in at the Capitol, the Pennsylvania Avenue parade or inaugural balls, figure out a sensible walking route for the final stage of your trip. Then figure out another sensible route, in case the first one fails.

After the 2009 inauguration, I asked travelers to share their on-the-pavement experiences. This comment from blog poster bug451 reflected a common frustration:

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. View Archive

“Some of us were happy to walk, but hadn’t planned on walking quite so far as we ultimately did. Trying to get to my bleachers seat on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue at 12th, I was first directed from Gallery Place to a pedestrian crossover on Sixth that turned out to be non-existent, so I got directed to Third . . . then First, then New Jersey, and then all the way around the Capitol, at which point, I turned right back around . . . and ended up walking back to 14th or 15th.”

Some access points have changed this year, and the crowd is likely to be smaller. But 2009’s message — know before you go, then adapt to what you didn’t know — will serve people well Monday.

Walking north-south

If there’s one big thing walkers need to know about close-in navigation on Inauguration Day, it’s that the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route will create a barrier to those heading north or south. Between the Capitol and the White House, there will be no pedestrian crossing zones along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Use this map to find your way to and from Metro stations; to locate restrooms, concessions and Jumbotrons; and to navigate your way through security checkpoints to the parade and the Mall.

In 2009, the Third Street Tunnel was a vital north-south route for crowds, though it proved to be a bottleneck for those with tickets for the close-in viewing areas. This year, the Third Street Tunnel will be closed to pedestrians and cars. The main north-south walking routes will be Second and Third streets NE, east of the Capitol, and 18th and 19th streets NW, west of the White House.

Walking east-west

The big east-west routes north of the parade will be D, E, H and I (Eye) streets NW and Massachusetts Avenue NW.

South of the parade route, the heavy foot traffic will be on Constitution and Independence avenues as far east as Seventh Street NW/SW, which will be open to pedestrians. Continuing the pedestrian beltway created by the security plans, north-south Seventh Street links with east-west I (Eye) Street south of the Mall. I (Eye) Street connects with New Jersey Avenue, which links with North Carolina Avenue, for those trying to reach Second and Third streets NE.

Metro stations

Many will arrive by Metrorail, but at which stations? A Red Line rider will look at Metro Center station on a map and see it looks a lot closer to the Mall viewing areas than Farragut North. But the transit authority guide estimates the walk from Metro Center to the Mall at 1.7 miles, while from Farragut North, it’s about one mile.

Why? Because on this day, pedestrians won’t be able to walk straight south from Metro Center and reach the Mall.

A rider on the Blue or Orange lines coming in early and wanting to get as close to the Capitol as possible would want to disembark at a station on the south side of the Mall, resulting in a shorter walk.

The stations closest to the Capitol are likely to be the most crowded in the morning. Archives, Mount Vernon Square and Smithsonian stations are scheduled to be closed, but intensive crowding could temporarily shut other stations as well.

Walking from Metro

The stations closest to the White House parade viewing area (tickets required) are Farragut North, Farragut West and McPherson Square. A bit farther east are Metro Center and Gallery Place. They’re most convenient for viewing the parade’s midsection from the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Here are some routes from stations to the Mall for the swearing-in:

Arlington Cemetery

It’s about 1.5 miles to the Mall viewing areas, but it’s something to consider if you hate crowds and love views — and aren’t averse to exercise. Start by walking across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Memorial, about 0.7 mile from the station. Go by the left side of the memorial and pick up Constitution Avenue. Or you could swing right of the Lincoln Memorial, on the Independence Avenue side, and walk through the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, which wasn’t there for the 2009 inauguration.

Farragut North

Don’t be put off by the busted-up look of the station’s ceiling. It’s looked like that for several years and hasn’t fallen on us yet. Walk south to K Street NW, then turn right on K to reach 18th Street. Turn left on 18th and continue to Constitution Avenue. Turn left toward the Capitol.

At the K Street exit, you will find a Starbucks and an inauguration memorabilia vendor. You might be inclined to buy a hot drink for the mile-long walk and a T-shirt to commemorate the day. There are two ATMs along the route. As you walk along 18th Street, you will pass a variety of eateries and cafes. Be sure to stock up on food and drinks before you reach Pennsylvania Avenue, because at that point you’ve reached a no man’s land of office buildings with not a coffee shop in sight. The sidewalks also start to get dicey past Pennsylvania Avenue due to construction. Once you reach Constitution Avenue, there are multiple benches to rest and regroup before you continue to the Mall.

Farragut West

The walk to the Mall is nearly a mile. Head south on 17th Street NW toward I (Eye) Street, turn right on I, then go left on 18th Street and continue to Constitution Avenue. Turn left toward the Capitol.

Foggy Bottom

It’s closer to the Potomac River than Farragut West but about the same distance to the Mall. Foggy Bottom station has new escalators but only one exit, so it can be crowded at peak periods. Turn right onto 23rd Street NW and walk south 0.3 mile. Turn left at Virginia Avenue and walk 0.6 mile to Constitution Avenue.

McPherson Square

It’s about 1.2 miles to the Mall from McPherson Square station. Walk west on I (Eye) Street NW, then left on 18th Street NW. That will get you past the Pennsylvania Avenue parade barrier. Continue south to Constitution Avenue NW. Turn left toward the Capitol.

Metro Center

Though Metro Center is convenient for the parade route, it’s a more difficult starting point for the swearing-in ceremony. For the 1.7-mile walk to the Mall, go west on F or G streets NW, turn right at 14th Street NW, turn left at I (Eye) Street NW, turn left at 18th Street NW and continue south to Constitution. Turn left toward the Capitol. The advantage of taking this longer route is the resources along the way. You’ll be traveling through the heart of downtown, so you can’t walk 10 feet without encountering a cafe, restaurant or convenience store. Macy’s connects to the Metro Center stop, so if you forget gloves or need an umbrella, you’re in the right place. Still, for most, the nearly two-mile walk won’t be worth it.

L’Enfant Plaza

This is one of the most convenient stations for approaching the Mall, just a fifth of a mile away, and thousands know it. So expect L’Enfant Plaza to be very crowded in the hours before the swearing-in. Walk north on Seventh Street SW to Independence Avenue SW.

Waterfront

A Green Line rider from the District or Prince George’s County who doesn’t want to face the crowd at L’Enfant Plaza and is up for a mile walk to the Mall could get off at Waterfront station and walk north on Fourth Street SW, turn left on I (Eye) Street SW, turn right on Seventh Street SW and walk north to the Mall.

To see photos from the inaugural walking path, go to PostLocal’s Facebook page at http://bit.ly/inaugwalk.

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