Golf Fans Expected to Jam Roadways

By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 5, 2007

About 25,000 people are expected to attend the first day of the AT&T National golf tournament in Bethesda today, creating the potential for traffic tie-ups as commuters and spectators jam Montgomery County roads.

The tournament, hosted by golf superstar Tiger Woods, tees off at 7:10 a.m. at Congressional Country Club. For Washington area drivers, it will be a rerun of the particular traffic problems that accompany a Professional Golfers' Association Tour event.

Golf fans tend to arrive and depart during busy traffic hours, and they can cause baseball-game-size crowds on routes already crammed with weekday drivers. Still, area officials said they hoped that the congestion would be lessened by spectators' use of park-and-ride lots -- and by the fact that some residents will be taking extended July 4 vacations.

"What we're counting on is, because of the holiday, it'll be a little lighter traffic," said John Riehl, a supervisor at Montgomery County's Transportation Management Center. Riehl said he expected the tournament to cause only minor delays for commuters.

River Road and other major arteries are expected to be congested. "The Beltway and River Road are probably going to be the hot spots," said Dave Waskiewicz, who monitors traffic in Washington for

County officials suggested that commuters leave early and try to be patient with golf-related delays. Riehl said officials will monitor traffic and adjust traffic lights to maximize flow. But for people who use River Road daily, he said, "there is no alternative, unfortunately."

The tournament's crowds, drawn in part by the chance to see Woods in action, are expected to increase as the four-day event goes on. Kristina Ellis, a spokeswoman for the county's Department of Economic Development, said that 30,000 spectators are expected tomorrow and Saturday and that as many as 40,000 could attend the final round Sunday.

Ellis said players and visitors might spend $7 million on hotel rooms and $7.7 million on food and other services. But that would be small consolation for travelers spending time on packed Montgomery roads today.

For those headed to the tournament, organizers warned that there will be no general-admission parking at the club, at 8500 River Rd. They said drivers arriving today and tomorrow should go to one of three satellite lots: at the Rock Spring Park industrial complex in Bethesda, at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg, and at Fields Road and Sam Eig Highway in Gaithersburg. Those lots will open at 6 a.m. today and tomorrow.

On Saturday and Sunday, parking will not be allowed at the fairgrounds and Sam Eig Highway sites. Instead, visitors can park at the Rock Spring Park site and at the headquarters of the consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton in McLean. Lots will open at 7 a.m. on the weekend, officials said.

John Abate, a transportation volunteer for the tournament, said spectators should allow about 45 minutes for the shuttle bus ride to the country club and the walk to the tournament course.

For those planning their visits around the tour's two biggest names, officials said Tiger Woods will tee off today at 1:15 p.m., and Phil Mickelson will start at 7:47 a.m.

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