Three pavilions with outdoor space, classrooms and studios are under construction as part of the Kennedy Center expansion called the Reach. They will open in September. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

A busy stretch of Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, near the Kennedy Center, will close to all traffic this weekend and is likely to create significant backups and detours for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

The roadway, used by thousands to get to Washington monuments, downtown and across the Potomac River, will shut down from Virginia Avenue NW to the Interstate 66/Potomac River Freeway interchange, behind the Lincoln Memorial, starting at 8 p.m. Friday and through 5:30 a.m. Monday.

Access to pedestrians and bicyclists will also be restricted. A portion of the popular Rock Creek trail — between F Street NW at the Kennedy Center and the Roosevelt Bridge — will be closed.

The closure is scheduled to allow construction crews to prepare the area for the installation of a new pedestrian bridge over the parkway, a key element of a mammoth expansion of the Kennedy Center scheduled to be completed later this year.

The expansion is adding 72,000 square feet of classroom and performance space on four acres south of the white marble arts center. The project also includes a reflecting pool and outdoor space that will allow for screenings or performances. The new pedestrian bridge will connect the arts center to the riverfront.


Rendering of the major expansion of the Kennedy Center campus, including a pedestrian bridge over Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway.

During this weekend’s closure, a massive crane will be delivered and erected in preparation for the installation of the bridge, which will also be delivered in sections and stored at the Kennedy Center campus until its installation next month, Kennedy Center spokeswoman Michelle Pendoley said. The installation will require another complete shutdown of the roadway; officials haven’t announced the date for that second full closure.

“We recognize that this is going to be an inconvenience, but we hope that it is a short-term inconvenience for a long-term public good,” Pendoley said.

The closure is likely to create significant backups for thousands of travelers who use the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, and in and around the Foggy Bottom area. As many as 37,700 vehicles travel through that portion of the parkway daily, according to city traffic counts from 2015.

Kennedy Center officials are urging neighbors to add extra time to get in and out of the area, and asking visitors to plan accordingly if they want to make it on time for this weekend’s functions. If possible, people should use Metro to get there or avoid the area. Those who need to travel through there should be extra patient and follow detour signs. Traffic safety officers will be directing traffic in and around the Kennedy Center.

Here are the expected detours and a map showing the impact:

  • Traffic from the north will follow a detour on Virginia Avenue NW.
  • Traffic from the south will follow a detour onto the ramp that leads to Interstate 66/Potomac River Freeway.
  • Pedestrians and bicyclists will find detour signs at F Street NW at the Kennedy Center to Virginia Avenue and 23rd Street to the Lincoln Memorial.

(Kennedy Center)

The bridge installation is one of the last pieces in the major expansion of the arts center — a total capital campaign of $250 million including construction, furnishings and program support.

Construction started in the fall of 2015, and major work is expected to be completed in May for a September opening. Drivers in the area should expect more partial lane closures during the next two months, officials said.