District to Limit Visitor Parking Near Ballpark

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 28, 2008; Page B01

The District plans to limit parking on some side streets near the soon-to-open Nationals ballpark to encourage baseball fans to take Metro, under a new parking and transportation plan announced yesterday.

The plan will prevent those who don't live in the neighborhood of the stadium from parking legally on nearby streets long enough to attend a game. New parking meters will regulate how long drivers park in the area's business districts.

"Metro is going to be by far the best way to get to the game," Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said at a news conference at an office building with a views of the stadium.

Parking at the ballpark, set to open with an exhibition game between the Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles on March 29, has been a major concern for team executives, city officials and residents of the area. Squeezed onto 21 acres along South Capitol Street SE, the ballpark has two parking garages, which will hold a total of about 1,200 cars and will be used by people who buy the highest-priced seats and suites.

The Nationals have been working to secure more than 4,000 additional spaces within walking distance of the ballpark and have promised that those spaces would be available for sale to any season ticket holder. The team has worked with the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission to use RFK Stadium's lot for free parking for other fans, who would be shuttled to the ballpark by courtesy buses.

The parking restrictions around the ballpark will cover an area as far north as Pennsylvania Avenue SE and as far west as Seventh Street SW. Rates for meters on some streets would increase if the D.C. Council approves legislation on the parking plan Tuesday.

Those rates would follow prices of nearby commercial lots and garages to discourage fans from driving around in search of cheap, on-street parking. The Nationals are charging as much as $35 for spaces, and Fenty said yesterday that the parking meter rate had not been decided and that he had not taken a position on the prices.

The plan was proposed by D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) to keep neighborhood streets from being inundated by baseball fans.

"For Ward 6 residents, their Zone 6 parking sticker means they'll see little difference in how they park their cars, but with better management, they should find that visitors stick to the retail streets and the residents become the priority for residential streets," he said yesterday.

The plan divides the streets into four categories. The majority of the streets will allow Ward 6 residents to park for free and for as long as they wish, as long as they have a sticker on their car. Visitors will be allowed to park on only one side of those streets and for only two hours. Planners said they hope that time limit, not long enough to enjoy a nine-inning game, will keep baseball fans off residential streets.

Another category includes M and N streets and Potomac Avenue, closest to the ballpark. Those streets will have meters to control parking on most days, and parking there will be prohibited for everyone on game days.

The other two categories include streets with meters that will vary in price. Along some streets, including commercial districts such as Pennsylvania Avenue SE, everyone will pay to park. Other streets, which include a few blocks near some of those business districts, will have meters, but Ward 6 residents will park free.

Gregory McCarthy, a Nationals executive working on parking, said yesterday that all season ticket holders who wanted parking spaces have gotten them or are in the process of getting them. The team is trying to determine how many spaces might be available to fans without season tickets.

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