New Ideas for Blossoms' Bottleneck

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By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 24, 2008

Ah, the cherry blossoms: fluffy, pink flowers, picnics under the pastel tree canopy, fisticuffs in the parking lot.

Yes, the time when spring is in the air and a million people descend on the Tidal Basin to celebrate is a time when road rage blossoms as well.

Parking has never been easy in Washington, and even though the National Park Service annually begs blossom viewers to use Metro, bicycle or park at a satellite lot, it seems that most everyone driving to the Tidal Basin is confident that they will win the lottery of blossom parking: one of the 180 spots in the tiny lot next to the paddle-boat dock.

"Oh, the gridlock. The traffic. Everyone goes right for that lot," said National Park Service spokesman Bill Line.

The lot has caused countless headaches because it is so small and so many people head straight for it, causing gridlock that extends downtown in one direction and toward Virginia in the other. Horns honk, tempers flare and even fights erupt.

This year, officials are trying something altogether different at that embattled space: They're simply getting rid of it.

"That parking lot will be closed. Nobody is going to get in there," Line said.

Instead, the lot will have an information trailer, food stands, gift and book tents, portable restrooms and a first-aid area, Line said. Officials are thinking sushi, egg rolls, maybe even a sake garden next to the welcome trailer.

One blossom viewer, miffed by the closing, quipped online that the trailer could be renamed "Welcome to No Parking."

The Park Service has been bombarded with similar complaints, always hearing: "You've got to do something about the gridlock," Line said.

So this year, they are trying to reroute the traffic to Hains Point, toward the now-barren area where the "Awakening" statue used to be before it was moved to the National Harbor development.

The largest number of parking spaces will be available on Hains Point, where 800 free spots are available along Ohio Drive SW and a free "Blossom Shuttle" will take people to and from the Tidal Basin. The Park Service also has designated several parking areas for disabled visitors.

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