Washington Redskins fans again will be barred from walking on a public sidewalk to FedEx Field if a recommendation yesterday by a panel of Prince George's County officials and team and community representatives is adopted.
The controversial policy limiting pedestrian access to the football stadium, which Prince George's Circuit Court Judge Sheila Tillerson-Adams voided five months ago, passed by a 6 to 1 vote of the "coordinating group." Its recommendation, reflecting concerns that pedestrians along Redskins Road pose a safety problem, now goes to the county Department of Public Works and Transportation for the actual decision on restricting access.
"Post-9/11 we're no longer an open society," said Public Safety Director Vernon Herron, chairman of the panel. "These measures are absolutely critical for the safety of all who are in that stadium."
Some football fans feel the restrictions are motivated not by safety concerns but by dollars and cents.
"I suspect that another reason for the pedestrian ban is to redistribute vehicles from Landover Mall -- where the Redskins do not receive any parking revenue -- to lots owned or operated by the Redskins," said Jeremy Mobutu, 22, who has joined a lawsuit against the team. "Unless I am given a free parking pass to park at stadium lots, I will always park at Landover Mall."
Blocking sidewalk access to Redskins Road began four years ago and was approved by the coordinating group, without public notice, at a meeting last August. Tillerson-Adams ruled that the decision violated Maryland's Open Meetings Act; in an order signed in December, she wrote that the group had "no authority to alter or amend" county code relating to temporary road closures. The road was open without incident for the final Redskins game last season.
Peggy Feltman, a longtime Redskins season ticket holder from Silver Spring, sued the team and county over the policy. At yesterday morning's hearing, she testified that the team should build a barricaded sidewalk to protect fans rather than block the public sidewalk.
"It is abundantly clear [from the judge's order] that the coordinating group may not take any action to restrict the pedestrian access to FedEx Field," she said, adding, "I will go back to court and ask the judge to hold the coordinating group in contempt of court."
County police officers testified that the massive flow of pedestrians after Redskin games creates a dangerous situation.
"You add alcohol, fatigue and other factors . . . [and] we have a very difficult time trying to control the people because they do not listen to our commands," said Cpl. Michael Rose, one of 190 officers who work the games.
Since the stadium opened in 1997, two pedestrians have been killed and 12 injured after being hit by cars on adjacent roads, police said.
"Had they not been parked over at the mall, in my opinion, they would not be dead right now," Rose said. "We could have 100 officers at that intersection, and we still would not be able to control every one of those pedestrians."
The Redskins provide 25,000 close-in parking spots for season ticket holders and 5,800 spaces at nearby cash lots leased by the Redskins. During an early game in 2000, 1,560 cars parked free at Landover Mall, and 4,200 pedestrians walked to the stadium, according to a team-commissioned study presented at the hearing. Shortly after Redskins Road was first blocked in October 2000, the number of fans' cars at the mall fell to 374 during one game, and pedestrians dropped to about 1,000, the study found.
The only community representative voting yesterday opposed the measure. "I vote against it until the Redskins organization exhausts every possible means of producing safety measures for pedestrians on game day," said Richard Day, president of the Lake Arbor Civic Association.
The panel also passed a resolution yesterday to continue closing FedEx Way, Arena Drive, Redskins Road, Morgan Boulevard and Hill Oaks Road to public access from midnight before any stadium event until three hours after its conclusion. Those closures have been in effect for several seasons, said Jay Creech, a lawyer for the county.