University of Maryland officials are urging football fans to carpool or take public transportation to tonight's sold-out game at College Park between the Terrapins and undefeated Virginia Tech.

The unusual weeknight game could tie up rush-hour traffic near the junction of the Capital Beltway and Route 1 as 52,000 fans seek to get to Byrd Stadium before the 7:45 p.m. kickoff.

The Atlantic Coast Conference game between the Terrapins (4-2) and third-ranked Hokies (6-0) will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Kathy Worthington, executive senior associate athletic director for U-Md., said the event posed "very challenging" traffic issues. "Bringing 52,000 people into this area at a time that coincides with rush hour and evening classes is a difficult situation," she said.

To ease the expected traffic jams, the university is advising fans to arrive early, and the stadium will open at 5:30 p.m. In addition, fans are urged to take Metrorail's Green Line to the College Park-University of Maryland stop and a shuttle from there to the stadium.

Metro plans to keep the station open late for fans, with the last train leaving at 1:33 a.m. tomorrow, according to a university news release.

For those who drive to the game, the most direct route from the Beltway, Exit 25/Route 1, may be the least advisable. The university said fans coming from the Beltway should consider Exit 28/New Hampshire Avenue or Exit 23/Kenilworth Avenue. Those coming from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway were urged to consider the Greenbelt Road/Route 193 west exit.

Game parking will be allowed in campus lots beginning at 4 p.m. to accommodate tailgate partiers and other early-arriving fans. But lots will be strictly regulated, the university said, to enable students to get to afternoon and evening classes. Only vehicles with a campus or football permit will be allowed on campus after 4 p.m.

Fans without parking permits will be sent to designated spots near the Metro station at River Road and Paint Branch Parkway, the university said. In addition, the university is allowing nonessential employees to leave campus at 3:30 p.m., earlier than normal.