Washington Redskins fans without parking permits who drive to Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers will be directed to $15 parking at US Airways Arena, where they can catch free shuttle buses to Redskins Stadium.
Meanwhile, dozens of new road signs will direct those with permits along redesigned routes to get them into parking spaces more quickly.
Yesterday, Redskins officials offered those adjustments as part of their plan to avert the gridlock that left hundreds of fans searching for parking spots past halftime during the team's season opener against the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 12.
"This is a system we know will work," Redskins spokesman Steve Baldacci said yesterday during a news conference at the stadium.
Since the 80,000-seat stadium opened two years ago, traffic backups and parking delays have been a staple at most home games. But the problems reached a new level during the Dallas game as some 30,000 cars tried to squeeze into about 22,000 parking spaces outside the stadium.
Redskins officials said they had issued only 18,000 parking permits at the beginning of the season. All suite-level and club-level season-ticket holders received permits, and the rest of the permits were sold to other season-ticket holders on a first-come, first-served basis. About 3,000 spaces were available for cash parking at the stadium for fans who did not have permits.
But at the Dallas game, drivers without permits slipped past parking attendants, forcing them to close the lots even to permit holders. By the time drivers were diverted to US Airways Arena, the game was well underway.
Redskins representatives, along with Prince George's County and state police and transportation officials, spent the past 2 1/2 weeks developing a new traffic and parking plan, consulting several firms that specialize in major event planning, Baldacci said.
The key element of the new plan, officials said, is the removal of cash parking from the stadium. From now on, drivers without parking permits will proceed directly to US Airways Arena, about a mile east of the stadium, where they will pay $15 to park and then catch one of up to 100 free shuttle buses that Metro will operate to and from the stadium. The buses will run four hours before the game until two hours after it.
Team officials say that because they have issued 18,000 parking permits, there should be plenty of spaces for permit holders at the stadium on Sunday. If things go smoothly, the team may decide to issue stadium parking permits for the remaining 3,000-plus spaces, he said.
The team also has reformatted the traffic patterns so that each of the parking lots--Red, Blue and Yellow--will have designated entry roads. For the Dallas game, drivers had to crisscross lanes to get to the proper lots.
In addition, team owner Daniel M. Snyder spent $60,000 to create an extra perimeter road around the southwest portion of the stadium to accelerate traffic flow. There will still be two lots for disabled drivers.
Finally, the stadium parking lots will be open four hours before the game so fans with permits can arrive early to pick their parking spots for tailgating parties. However, two hours before the game, parking lot attendants will begin assigning fans to spaces.
"This eliminates the potential for missing spots," team spokesman John Maroon said, noting that before the Dallas game, some spots went unused because tailgaters had set up grills and coolers in parking spaces.
Some fans said yesterday that they are encouraged by the Redskins' effort to fix the problems.
"I think that's a good start," said Terrence Thompson, a District resident who could not park in the stadium lot for the Dallas game, even though he had a Red Lot permit. A police officer eventually confiscated his tickets after Thompson tried to park illegally. "We'll see how it turns out. I'm hopeful for and expecting improvement."
Team officials still are encouraging fans to use public transportation, including the Metro, which offers a $2 round-trip shuttle bus service from three stations near the stadium.
Officials also said more parking lot attendants and police officers will be on duty Sunday. A couple of attendants were fired, officials said, after they allegedly accepted bribes from drivers who did not have parking permits but wanted to park at the stadium.
"The system didn't work too well last game," Baldacci said. "You just can't have as many people descend on the stadium grounds as attempted to do so for the Dallas game. This new plan should guarantee that that doesn't happen."
Redskins' New Parking Plan
Redskins officials yesterday unveiled a new plan for stadium parking.
Cash parking: No longer available on the stadium grounds. Fans should park at US Airways Arena at a cost of $15 and be transported to the stadium on free shuttles.
Permit parking: Permits are required to park on stadium grounds.
Parking lot hours: All lots will open four hours before kickoff.
Signage: Signs will indicate recommended routes to exits along the Beltway.