The 2011 National Christmas Tree on The Ellipse near the White House in Washington, D.C. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Christmas tree

It’s time for the festive holiday event that darkens the mood of many D.C. commuters, the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the Ellipse. It’s scheduled for Thursday, starting at 4:30 p.m.

Ninety years of tradition says that the large gathering has to occur as the evening rush hour goes into full swing. Drivers and bus riders will leave work and head smack into detours around the White House and Ellipse. The effects on traffic will ripple out from there and slow travel through much of downtown.

New Freeway ramp

The District Department of Transportation has made several changes in the commuter traffic patterns near the Anacostia River in connection with the 11th Street Bridge project.

A new ramp connecting 11th Street SE with the westbound Southeast-Southwest Freeway opened Thursday. Drivers on Capitol Hill can use this for easier access from local streets onto the freeway. It will also provide more direct access to the freeway for Anacostia residents who use the local span of the 11th Street Bridge. And it should help the traffic leaving the Navy Yard in the evening.

Freeway Reroute

The other big change affects commuters who drive across the Sousa Bridge to swing from Pennsylvania Avenue SE onto the westbound side of the Southeast Freeway.

The westbound side of the freeway is now closed between Pennsylvania Avenue and Eighth Street SE. It will stay closed for 18 to 20 months while workers raise the roadway and convert it into a boulevard, with connections to local streets.

Commuters should now head south on D.C. 295 to the 11th Street Bridge and use that to cross the Anacostia River, where they pick up the Southeast-Southwest Freeway.

Around the end of the year, the eastbound lanes of the Southeast Freeway to the Sousa Bridge also will be closed for the boulevard construction project, but by then, the new ramp from the outbound span of the 11th Street Bridge to northbound D.C. 295 should be open, giving commuters a more direct freeway connection than they had before the project began.

Football Monday

Metro will stay open an hour past its normal midnight closing time Monday to get fans home from FedEx Field after the Redskins game with the New York Giants.

Also, the 8:30 p.m. kickoff means that football fans will be sharing the roads and rails with commuters, generating extra congestion.

If heading to the game, try to get there early. The parking lots open four hours before kickoff. If you’re a Capital Beltway commuter just trying to get home, stay left as you travel through the Landover area to avoid the game traffic, which will be using three exits in that area.

D.C. parking summit

The District Department of Transportation plans to hold a citywide forum Tuesday night to report on the feedback it received during a round of community meetings about how street parking should be managed.

Transportation officials will review what they heard and discuss how the public comments may fit into the development of a comprehensive plan for parking.

The summit is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. at 441 Fourth St. NW. For those who don’t want to park, Judiciary Square is the nearest Metro station.

Disability parking

Speaking of parking issues, I got an inquiry from a traveler planning a visit to the District who wanted to know what the rules are for someone with a disability parking placard.

While the District government is reviewing that policy, among others, people with valid disability placards or plates still may park at any D.C. meter for free and stay for twice the time normally allowed in that area.

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