The Redskins and the Minnesota Vikings, two football teams with losing records for 2011, will play at FedEx Field this weekend in the Redskins’ final home game of the season.
The most distinguishing factor about the game for D.C. area travelers is that it’s Saturday, rather than Sunday, and this Saturday happens to be Christmas Eve, when many people will be out doing their last-minute holiday shopping.
If you’re a fan of shopping, rather than football, you’ll want to avoid the eastern side of the Capital Beltway and the main roads around Landover as the 1 p.m. game time approaches. There may be some holiday getaway traffic, as well. Drivers just passing through the area should keep left on the Beltway near the Landover Road, Arena Drive and Central Avenue interchanges, the ones used for game traffic.
The Capital Weather Gang’s forecast calls for a partly cloudy Saturday with temperatures in the high 40s, but the weekend forecast keeps evolving, and it’s best to watch for updates.
Here’s our traffic and transit advice for those heading to the game.
Fans who use the Capital Beltway in Maryland may encounter slower traffic as they pass through several work zones for bridge repair projects in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. All the local transportation departments have suspended work for the holiday weekend, and all the travel lanes should be open. But there still are points where the lanes narrow and shift.
Of particular note is the Northwest Branch bridge work zone between University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue in Silver Spring, where the state uses cameras to enforce the 55-mph speed limit.
On game days, traffic volumes increase on Landover Road, Central Avenue, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and the eastern side of the Beltway. Leave home early because the traffic will be at its worst in the two hours before kickoff.
Three Beltway interchanges at Landover Road, Arena Drive and Central Avenue offer access to FedEx Field. As game time approaches, the Landover Road and Arena Drive exits tend to be the most crowded, especially Landover Road. Central Avenue, the southernmost of the three exits, is the one that the Maryland State Highway Administration recommends to minimize delays.
There’s a lane divide on the Beltway that was created to allow full-time use of the Arena Drive interchange. Game traffic will slow the lanes to the right of the solid white lines. Through traffic should stay to the left of the lines.
The Beltway isn’t the only way to reach the stadium. For example, a Northern Virginia driver could come across the 14th Street Bridge on Interstate 395, cross the Anacostia River via Pennsylvania Avenue, pick up Minnesota Avenue SE, turn right on B Street SE, right again on East Capitol Street, which becomes Central Avenue, then take Morgan Boulevard north to the stadium.
The parking lots are usually open four hours before game time, and the stadium gates open two hours before kickoff. Drivers leaving the lots after games will be directed to dedicated lanes to ease congestion. Watch the stadium personnel and the overhead lane lights.
The lots closest to the stadium are open to permit holders only. Use of more than one parking spot for tailgating is permitted only in designated areas.
The team says those who want to tailgate in more than one space will be directed to the back of parking lots, where they will be allowed to occupy additional spaces until required for additional vehicles. Fans who wish to tailgate within a single parking spot will be directed to the front of parking lots.
There are several cash lots off Jericho City Drive, to the southeast of the stadium.
The Blue Line’s Morgan Boulevard station is the closest to FedEx. The stadium is a little less than a mile north along a slightly uphill sidewalk. Largo Town Center station, also on the Blue Line, is the next closest. Make sure you have your SmarTrip card or paper fare card loaded for a round trip, so you won’t have to wait in a line at fare vending machines after games.
Parking is free on weekends at Metrorail lots and garages, other than Morgan Boulevard or Largo Town Center stations. Drivers who park at those stations to go to FedEx must pay $25 with a SmarTrip card. The reusable cards cost $5. Metrorail riders who park at those two stations on game days should use SmarTrip cards to pay for their train rides, so they can avoid paying the special event fee.
Metro doesn’t allow tailgating in its parking areas.