Roads and Rails: Inauguration Navigation

Eric Weiss and Lena Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 19, 2009; 11:00 AM

Washington Post staff writers Eric Weiss and Lena Sun were online Monday, Jan. 19 at 11 a.m. ET to answer your questions, particularly about transit and traffic issues surrounding the inauguration.

The transcript follows.

Discussion Archive


Alexandria, Va.: Is the Key Bridge open today? Thanks.

Eric Weiss: Yes.


Eric Weiss: Good morning!

How's everything going? We'll try to give some answers on the confusing way to get around to all the festivities--although everyone needs to make a personal travel plan.


Washington, D.C.: Will either Rock Creek or Independence be closed for pedestrian travel?

Eric Weiss: I believe Rock Creek Parkway will be closed to vehicles but not walkers and bikers. It depends on where on Independence.


Denver: I can't find the time that the inauguration is scheduled to begin. What time on Jan. 20th so that I'll know when to tune in?

Eric Weiss: Check your local TV listings.


Washington, D.C.: Can you confirm that there will be no street parking from K - P and 12th - 22nd? Regardless, will downtown parking garages be open the morning of the inauguration? Thanks!

Eric Weiss: Those areas are reserved for bus parking and "authorized vehicles," including buses, taxis, limos and vehicles with sirens. If you live in one of those areas, show your license and you will be permitted in. As far as garages go, I would contact your individual garage whether they will be open and whether monthly passholders or daily parking will be honored.


Leesburg, Va.: If you plan on going to the Mall area tomorrow (I do not have tickets or plan on watching the parade) can you bring strollers, chairs and coolers?


Lena Sun: Hi Leesburg. Doublecheck the park service Web site for the list of prohibited items, but FOR THE MALL, I believe you can bring that stuff. However, be advised there will be security checkpoints around the Mall and the more stuff you have, the longer it will take to get to a patch of grass.

If that is your plan, then stay on the Mall and don't try to get to the parade area because a)you probably won't get a spot and b) they have tighter restrictions about what you can bring. Finally, if you plan to take Metro, consider how much extra room you are taking up on the trains.


Gaithersburg, Md.: What time do you expect Metro parking lots to be filled tomorrow? I think Metro needs to post updates on their websites when lots fill up so people are informed. Are they planning on doing this?

Eric Weiss: Metro has 60,000 parking spaces, many of them at the outer stations. The stations will open at 3:30 a.m. and the trains start running at 4.

It's your call whether to be there at 3:30 or chance that there will be a space available at 7.


Silver Spring, Md.: I am rather surprised there is no resource on the Washington Post website to tell people in advance what road restrictions will be in place on Tuesday.

I keep hearing on T V news that there are all these sites to let people know how to plan. And I have been searching for days. Where is the info?

I know there is a history of total disconnect between the Capitol Police and the DC City resources. I was here for the Cessna scare in the spring of '05 when the City had no idea of the evacuation and threat determined by the Capitol Police. And just last week - a water main break and travel disruption wasn't communicated to the city for hours.

But the inauguration has been a known entity insofar as time and place for how long now, making the lack of coordination and info available to the public just seem DUMB. Washington Post Inauguration Survival Guide

Lena Sun: Actually, the Washington Post Web site has had tons of information as officials have released it as well as cumulatively, if you check the link below. In yesterday's print edition, there was also a very handy Grab and Go pull-out guide that shows all the road restrictions and more.


Washington, D.C.: How is the metro going to be on Monday? What's the best time to take it?

Lena Sun: Monday? I think you mean tomorrow, Tuesday, right? No one really knows how many people are going to these events and how they will get there. These are all planners' guesstimates because there hasn't been anything on this scale. Ever.

If you are planning to park at a Metro station, get there early. Parking lots open at 3:30 a.m. and Metro starts running at 4 a.m. Officials expect lots to fill up by 5:30 or 6 a.m.

Parade route opens to public at 7 a.m. Once the crowd reaches 300,000 to 350,000, which could be as early as 10 a.m., says Mayor Adrian Fenty, THEY WON'T LET ANYONE ELSE IN, INCLUDING TICKETHOLDERS FOR BLEACHER SEATS.

Probably best bet to see swearing-in AND parade will be from a Jumbotron on the Mall.


Washington, DC: Is the Roosevelt bridge going to be open tomorrow to walkers? Thanks!

Eric Weiss: Yes, there is a narrow walking-biking path accessed from the parking lot at Theodore Roosevelt Island. Walk downriver a bit and stay to the right and soon you will be smelling bus exhaust and seeing the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Memorial. Take a map of the city because it is confusing to get from the Kennedy Center to the Mall.


Baltimore: Hi there. I'm staying at a friends house right across from the FBI Building -- but I need to get there from Baltimore. I'm either MARCing down this evening (and back on Wednesday morning) or driving to my girlfriend's house in Dunn Loring and Metro- ing in this evening and out Wednesday morning. Is traffic down 95 forecasted to be hellacious this evening (especially with the snow)?

Eric Weiss: I would MARC it. I-95 is always such an idiot-fest, especially in bad weather.


Washington, D.C.: I live in NW DC and want to go down to the Mall for the swearing-in only. I don't want to exit Metro north of the parade route, as crossing Pennsylvania Avenue will be difficult, with only a few crossing spots. Can I take the Red Line to Metro Center and change to the Orange or Blue Lines to exit at L'Enfant Plaza or Federal Center? Thanks.

Eric Weiss: You can do what every you want, as long as you don't mind Tokyo-style crowding and trains too full to get on.



Washington, D.C.: All the newspapers and websites tell you to leave early if you don't want to spend hours getting downtown to see the inaugural festivities. My question is, what is early? Is it 4 a.m., when Metro opens? Is it 7:30 a.m., four hours before the swearing-in? Even later? I'll be trying to get on Metro or a bus to get to the Mall for the inauguration ceremony only, no tickets, no security checkpoints.

Eric Weiss: I'll check the almanac about the crowds during the last inauguration of a popular African-American president...

Bottom line: how much risk are you willing to take? People who waited too late for the concert yesterday missed it, instead spending their time waiting on line for security entrances that had long been closed. (Thanks Park Police for blowing it Big Time).


Arlington, Va.: Metro is advertising 23 special BUS corridors that they are operating tomorrow but there are no maps and no times. Can you provide some insight into how to know when to access these special bus lines??? Metro - Getting Around - Metro to Events - Presidential Inauguration Bus Routes

Lena Sun: Hi Arlington. You can click on our link below. You can also go to Metro's Web site,, and there should be Metro brochures at all the stations.

Or find one of the Grab and Go guides we published in yesterday's Washington Post, 3 full pages of maps and guides and routes.

These 23 bus corridors more or less mirror existing routes, with some modifications to account for road closures. There are four corridors that start in NoVa, including the 3B, 3E, 3Y from the West Falls Church Metro, the 38B from the Ballston Metro, 16B from Lessburg and Columbia Pike, and 7AF, 7WX, 28FG from Landmark or Skyline Center.


Durham, N.C.: We have an infant and are toying with the idea of coming to DC. We have relatives right near ex 163 (Lorton) of 95. We are thinking of driving up tomorrow (Monday); my wife and baby would stay but I would venture out to see the inauguration from the Mall.

- How bad will 95 be on Monday from Richmond to Lorton, and on Wed. back?

- I was thinking of cycling or using the subway on Inauguration Day - but where to park or how to otherwise access transportation?

- Will crowds subside enough on Wed. that we can bring the baby in and enjoy the Smithsonian?


Eric Weiss: You are violating Lena's super-strict prohibition against multiple questions, but I won't tell if you don't.

Try to park at a park-n-ride on 95 and take a bus in.

95 is always bad, especially on Wednesday when everyone is leaving Dodge.

Baby questions need to be referred to board-licensed pediatricians. In other words, I dunno.


Lena Sun: To earlier questioner who asked about transferring on the Metro tomorrow: Contrary to what Eric said, I would strongly advise against transferring at the major stations such as Metro Center, L'Enfant Plaza. Metro officials are strongly recommending that you DON'T TRANSFER. Crowds will be too big. Take Metro to your closest station, then get out and walk.


Charlottesville, Va.: I have no tickets to anything but am considering coming up tonight and staying with my sister in Arlington. What can I expect to see and how close can I expect to get if I walk across the bridge by Arlington National Cemetery down to the Mall early tomorrow morning? Will it be worth it, or should I just stay home and watch it on TV?

Eric Weiss: What, really, is "worth it" in life?

Come up, hang with Sis, and walk down to the Mall and watch it on the Jumbotrons. Then you can feel you are part of history.

Better than sitting in front of the Sony with a bag of chips.


Washington, D.C.: When will the bridges from Virginia re-open to vehicular traffic going INTO the District?

Eric Weiss: 7 p.m.


Washington, DC: Are there going to be bag restriction on Metro tomorrow (Tuesday)? I am staying with some friends in Tenley tonight, but I have to be back home (Capitol Hill) by late afternoon/early evening tomorrow. Should I be worried about taking my computer and overnight stuff?

Lena Sun: You're referring to the random bag searches and the one thing that will trigger that is if the threat level changes. And that's not within Metro's control.


Cheverly, Md.: I would like to bike from PG County to Rosslyn and I am trying to understand what bridge I will be allowed to bike over, outbound from DC. The sources I have found seem to either not address this or are conflicting. Can you enlighten me?

Eric Weiss: All bridges that have walk/bike paths will be open to cyclists.


Bethesda, Md.: The Walking Map in the Post is very useful. It says to enter the Mall from the South side for non-ticketed swearing in viewing, but there are no security points indicated on the map. Does that mean you don't have to clear security if you enter from L'enfant Plaza side?

Eric Weiss: You are right, there are no security checks similar to those for the ticketed swearing-in section, or the parade route. But I would expect some cursory screening.


Lena Sun: This just in: Metro set a new Sunday ridership record yesterday with the Lincoln Memorial concert: 616,324 trips. That beats the previous record, 540,945 trips, set on July 4, 1999. So those of you who went and rode the rails, you helped set a ridership record.


Alexandria, Va.: I'm hoping to walk into DC tomorrow. I keep reading that the George Washington Memorial Parkway will be closed, but I'm not sure whether that means that it will be closed to pedestrians. I'm having similar problems with a number of roads, in fact. Any insights into whether a "closed" road excludes walkers?

Eric Weiss: The GW Parkway is not open to walkers, according the National Park Service, which operates the highway.


Washington, D.C.: So are the Potomac Bridges closing at 9 p.m. or 2 a.m. tonight? I've heard both.

Eric Weiss: I don't what you "heard," but if you READ The Washington Post, you would know that the Potomac Bridges are closed to non-authorized vehicles from 3 a.m. on Tuesday to 7 p.m.


Chantilly, Va.: Where can I enter the Mall from the Federal Triangle Metro stop? Will I have to go through security even though I don't have a ticket to the swearing in ceremony? If the Mall opens at 4 a.m., does that mean I can start jockeying for a place then?

Lena Sun: From the map that was in Sunday's Post, the 3-page Grab and Go guide, looks like you can just walk to the Mall from there and position yourself by one of the Jumbotrons.

The Mall opens at 4 a.m. but if you are taking Metro, will be hard to get there before 4 a.m. because Metro doesn't start running until 4 a.m.

Can I make a suggestion to you and everyone else on this chat today? Get a copy of Sunday's Washington Post. In the Metro section, there is a 3-page Grab and Go guide that has huge full page maps that show security screening points, recommended entrances for parade ticketed areas, bike valets, Jumbotron locations, parade route, pedestrian crossovers, Metro stations, and a schedule of events. And that's just on one of the pages.


Oxon Hill, Md.: If the 14th Street bridge is closed inbound, why are they bothering to have the 11th street and Douglas bridges open? Do officials realize how many people are going to try to crowd onto those two bridges (along with the Sousa to a lesser extent)?

I hereby ask President Elect Obama for a day's pay that I will lose because of his "celebration."

Eric Weiss: Here are access points into the District:

14th Street Bridge (Buses and Authorized Vehicles Only)

Roosevelt Bridge (Buses and Authorized Vehicles Only)

Memorial Bridge (Pedestrians and Emergency Vehicles Only)

Key Bridge (Buses and Authorized Vehicles Only)

South Capitol Street Bridge (Buses and Authorized Vehicles Only)

Rock Creek Parkway (all traffic)

From Piney Branch Road NW to Virginia Avenue NW

11th Street Bridges (Buses and Authorized Vehicles Only)

Sousa Bridge (all traffic)

Open from East of River to Security checkpoint in Capitol Hill

Barney Circle closed to all vehicles

East Capitol Street (all traffic)

Open but roadways around RFK will be filled with tour buses

Benning Road (all traffic)

New York Avenue (all traffic)

3rd Street Tunnel (For Pedestrian Use Only)


Washington, D.C.: I've driven downtown today (17th & K St.) and have heard rumors that some streets will be closed to vehicular traffic this afternoon. Is there any validity to those rumors?

Lena Sun: Some of the on-street PARKING restrictions will be in place this afternoon.

_______________________ Where to Go, How to Get There and What to Expect

Lena Sun: Folks, here are answers to some of the more basic questions. The main point I would add is this: however you get there tomorrow, getting home will be much worse, with longer lines and waits just to get into Metro stations downtown. Be prepared for that because you will be cold and tired.


Fairfax, Va.: We wanted to go into DC today. Are all the bridges open to personal vehicles today? Any road closures in DC today?

Eric Weiss: Bridges are open. There are massive parking restrictions beginning at 3 p.m. today. Check DC's website that details the parking restrictions:


Washington, D.C.: I work downtown (15th & M St) and live in Arlington. What is the best way to get our of town this afternoon? The D.C. Govt's Web site has conflicting street closure information it seems.

Eric Weiss: I believe you are referring to parking restrictions, which go into effect at 3 p.m. Otherwise, most road and bridge closures don't go into effect until early tomorrow morning.


Anonymous: Still confused about parade entry. Have tickets to VIP seating on 15th street, tickets say event begins at 11 a.m. and goes until parade ends. Will we be turned away if parade route is "full?"

Lena Sun: Yes. We have heard this several times from several officials, including DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier. If the people standing shoulder-to-shoulder fill up the sidewalks on the parade route by 10 a.m. (i.e. reaching capacity crowd), security officials WILL NOT LET ANYONE ELSE IN. DOESN'T MATTER IF YOU HAVE A TICKET. So that means you need to get there early. Bring a blanket. At least you'll have some place to sit.


Naples, Fla.: Will 95 and 495 be available to northbound traffic?

Eric Weiss: If you are trying to bypass the inauguration events in the District by driving around the Capital Beltway, both 95 North and the Beltway will be open. I would expect some traffic, though, on Tuesday, as folks who insist on driving use the Beltway to get around the closed Potomac Bridges into the District.


Alexandria, Va.: Are all the major roads into and out of the District open today?

Eric Weiss: Yes.


Philadelphia: What's the word on parking at the Metro stations on Tuesday? Any chance that parking spots will clear after the swearing in for people attending district functions in the evening?

Lena Sun: Parking at Metro stations is likely to fill up by 5:30 to 6 a.m. If people head home after the swearing-in and make it back to the end of the line stations (in the Maryland and Va. suburbs) by afternoon, it's possible some of those spots will open up. But no one really knows how long it will take for people to get out after events, because that's when the crush will be.


Naples, Fla.: My son is driving back to college in NY and will be getting off the Autotrain in Lorton, Va. on Tuesday morning. Will the major highways (95N and 495) be available to him?

Eric Weiss: Yes, as long as he doesn't try to drive into the District.


District of Columbia: Outbound lanes of some bridges will remain open on Inauguration Day. Any info on when the inbound lanes may reopen?

Eric Weiss: Around 7 p.m. on Tuesday.


Washington, D.C.: What time will road closures begin today and which ones?

Lena Sun: There are no road closures today. Road and bridge closures don't start until 3 a.m. Tuesday.


D.C.: Will you be able to cross streets by car that are designated pedestrian-only streets?

Eric Weiss: What do you think?


Silver Spring, Md.: Which roads and bridges are closed today?

Lena Sun: None today. See answer above.


Chantilly, Va.: I did look at the very helpful grab-and-go maps in the Post yesterday, but it still is not clear to me (and I haven't been able to find info anywhere) whether I will have to go through security to get onto the Mall without a ticket to the swearing-in ceremony. Thanks.

Eric Weiss: There might be some type of screening, but not the metal-detectors that will be used in the ticketed areas and along the parade route. But there will be plenty of police and soldiers keeping a lookout.


Alexandria, Va.: Will we see ANY adjustment from transportation officials tomorrow as conditions change throughout the day. I really think the barricading of Virginia highways inside the Beltway is a bit overkill, and a decision that could be reversed once people on the ground see what effects the restrictions will have. Do these inbound highways really need to be reserved through the ENTIRE day, or could we possibly see them open once the ceremony and parade are over?

Has a schedule of the HOV lanes on I-395/95 been released?

Eric Weiss: There likely will be surprises as the Secret Service tries to mix things up, such as unexpected road closures. So be prepared.

And, yes, a schedule of HOV lane restrictions and times has been published in, guess where, The Washington Post.

HOV-2 has been in effect eastbound on I66 since Saturday at 4 p.m. There are also restriction on the I-95/1-495 corridor.


Long Valley, N.J.: I will be arriving in DC via train on Tuesday at 7 a.m. What is my best bet -- try to get to Pennsylvania Avenue or just go to the mall? If the mall is the choice, what 'route' would you suggest I walk ?? I am willing to walk all the way to the Lincoln Memorial if needed. Thanks

Lena Sun: I assume you are arriving at Union Station. Take the 3rd Street tunnel which will be pedestrian only and get to the south side of the Mall, find a Jumbotron, scope out the food vendors and porta-potties, and you will be all set.


Chantilly, Va.: Where is the entry point to the Mall for non-ticket holders? The Mall opens at 4 a.m., but what time will the security checkpoints open to start letting non-ticket holders on to the Mall to get into position for the swearing-in ceremony? Thanks much!

Lena Sun: There will not be the traditional type of security checkpoints (magnatometer, etc.) that there were yesterday. However, as the Mall fills up, with the areas closest to the Capitol filling up first, security will close off access to those areas.

To repeat: there will be no security checkpoints in the traditional sense on the Mall for the non-ticketed areas


Washington, D.C.: How can you walk to the swearing in from the north side, ie, 13th and L NW.

Lena Sun: It looks like there is a pedestrian crossover by the Old Post office pavilion, but you will have to cross over Pennsylvania Avenue before the parade begins. And take into account extra time for security.


Takoma Park, Md: What are the locations of the security check points to enter the Mall for the swearing-in ceremony? Walking to the Inauguration (

Lena Sun: There are no security checkpoints for entering the Mall if you are going to the general public area.

If you are going to a ticketed area, go to our Web site, Inauguration Central, and there is an online survival guide that should list them. Better bet would be to get copy of the Grab and Go guide in yesterday's print edition so you can take it with you and look up other stuff as well.


Lena Sun: Folks, please go to our Web site and check out this map. It should answer a lot of your questions about security checkpoints, location of jumbotrons, etc.


Arlington, Va.: I'm walking to the inauguration via Memorial Bridge. Will I be allowed to enter the Mall area from the Lincoln Memorial or will I need to go through a checkpoint? The Washington Post locates the nearest security screening at Henry Bacon Dr. and Constitution Ave. Will I need to access the Mall through this security screening? Thanks for your help.

Lena Sun: You can go straight to the Mall. You don't need to go to that security screening area. The U.S. park police say there will be no traditional checkpoints for people entering the Mall public area.

_______________________ Parade and Mall map

Lena Sun: Folks, here again is our parade and mall map. It doesn't have as much detail as the print edition in our Grab and Go guide that was in yesterday's paper. It will also be published in tomorrow's paper.


D.C. to BWI: This is crazy, but I have a 5:30 p.m. flight tomorrow out of BWI for my job. I live in upper NW, along Wisconsin Ave. What are the roads going to look like -- specifically Wisconsin Ave and the Beltway? Any road closures I need to plan around? I'm thinking of leaving at 2 p.m. -- is that too early/late?

Lena Sun: I don't think it will be too early. I'm guessing the roads will be pretty horrible heading out because charter buses will be adding to the traffic.


Lena Sun: Okay folks. We are way over our time limit and so sorry we couldn't get to every single question. To summarize, there is no one best way to get to where you want to go because it depends on what you want to see and where you are starting out. Bottom line, my sense from talking to security and transpo officials is this: best bet if you want to catch a piece of history is to be on the Mall because the whole thing will be open, and the Jumbotrons will show the swearing in AND the parade.


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