The National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Thursday on the Ellipse. If you got tickets in the lottery, you’re probably very excited! If your commute home takes you anywhere near the White House, you’re probably less thrilled.
The ceremony will occur right as many people are heading home from work, creating major problems throughout downtown Washington. Here’s what Dr. Gridlock wrote about the ceremony earlier this week:
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.
Beginning at about 4:15 p.m. on Thursday till the ceremonies are done around 7 p.m. there will be no northbound or southbound traffic allowed on 15th Street NW between E Street/ Pennsylvania Avenue and Constitution Avenue, or on 17th Street NW between Constitution Avenue and New York Avenue.
These street closures will force traffic that would normally take 15th or 17th streets onto neighboring routes. As more and more drivers are funneled onto side roads and alternate arteries, the delays will begin to build on areas that aren’t even that close to the ceremony.
Metro warns that delays are expected on the following Metrobus routes: 3Y, 11Y, 16Y, 32, 36, 37, 38B, 39, 42, 43, 52, 53, 80, D1, D2, D3, D5, D6, G8, L2, N2, N3, N4, P6, P17, P19, S1, S2, S4, S9, W13, X1, X2 and X9.
Be prepared for a slow commute home if you’re going to be hitting the road during this window. Try to avoid traveling through downtown until after the ceremony, if that’s possible. But if you have no choice and will be heading out during that timeframe, just be ready and try to be patient.