In fact, it will be close to impossible to make it to the Mall in the coming days. The city is physically on lockdown until after the inauguration. Barricades and fences are up, creating a restricted zone to keep vehicular and pedestrian traffic from a wide strip of downtown and the area around the monuments in Washington. Nearby Metro stations are closed. Major routes and bridges, including Arlington Memorial Bridge and Rock Creek Parkway, are shut down. And a law enforcement army, including more than 20,000 National Guard troops, is enforcing the perimeter.
A raging pandemic is forcing most inaugural events online, and the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, which resulted in the deaths of five people, is prompting heightened security.
Restrictions have gone into effect already. The perimeter for parking prohibitions and street closures is larger than normal and will last longer than usual. Authorities are asking people to stay away, as far-right groups have indicated plans to protest at state capitals across the country, as well as in the District.
The road closures are likely to create traffic backups for drivers trying to enter the city from the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Interstates 66 and 395. Drivers should avoid the area altogether and find alternate routes to get around a perimeter that extends several blocks, bounded by I-395 on the south, L Street NW on the north, Eighth Street NE/SE on the east and 23rd Street NW on the west.
The numerous road closures (see full list below) and parking restrictions affect streets around Capitol Hill, the Lincoln Memorial, Union Station, the Mall and the White House. Many of the restrictions began Tuesday and are expected to remain in place until Thursday, after the inauguration.
“We know this is very inconvenient for our residents and businesses. I want to say thank you for your cooperation and flexibility,” D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said. “Clearly we are in uncharted waters.”
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris will take the oath of office at noon Wednesday on the west front of the Capitol. Tickets to the ceremony are limited, inaugural balls have been canceled and the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue will be virtual.
People can watch the inaugural events at home. Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem and Jennifer Lopez will perform at the swearing-in. On Wednesday night, actor Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute prime-time TV special with performers such as Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons.
Metro: Thirteen stations are closed because of security concerns starting Friday and through Thursday. They are: Archives, Arlington Cemetery, Capitol South, Farragut North, Farragut West, Federal Center SW, Federal Triangle, Gallery Place, Judiciary Square, McPherson Square, Metro Center, Smithsonian and Union Station. In addition, the Pentagon Station will be close on Inauguration Day.
The rail system will operate from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. on weekdays, including on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But trains will run on a Saturday schedule — every 12 to 15 minutes on the Red Line and every 15 to 20 minutes on other lines.
Metrobus: The bus system will operate on a regular schedule, except on Monday and Wednesday, when they will follow Saturday frequencies. Expect detours around the inauguration security perimeter.
About 25 bus lines are affected by the road closures and will be detoured. Buses that cross the Mall will turn around at the security perimeters. Detours began Friday and will continue until Thursday. Metro said detours could change and urged anyone who needs to travel to plan ahead and allow additional travel time. Here’s a list of bus detours.
MetroAccess: The paratransit service has canceled trips for Monday and Wednesday. Service will not be available to destinations within the secured area in downtown, and customers traveling elsewhere in the city should expect delays.
Amtrak: The passenger railroad is suspending Northeast Regional service south of Washington, including to all Virginia stations, on Tuesday and Wednesday. Anyone traveling by train to Washington should also know that there is no access to taxi or ride hailing services at Union Station and the Metro station is closed. Other Amtrak service will operate normal schedules.
Capital Bikeshare: All stations around the Mall, Capitol Hill and Union Station are closed until further notice.
The bottom line: Don’t go downtown unless you have to, officials say. Essential workers who need to be within the secured zone will be screened and asked to show proof.
Vehicle traffic was banned from parts of downtown starting Tuesday, with more closures in effect Friday and in effect until 6 a.m. Thursday.
The U.S. Secret Service on Thursday announced a lengthy list of street closures and parking restrictions beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday and remaining until 6 a.m. Thursday.
A large area, designated a Red Zone and covering the vicinity of the White House, the Mall and the Capitol, is closed to traffic. Only authorized vehicles are allowed to get past barricades, officials said. Similar restrictions are in place near the Lincoln Memorial.
Other areas are restricted to businesses or residents, who have to go through National Guard checkpoints.
The Secret Service has also closed access to parking garages and loading docks near the White House, including from 14th Street to 19th Street and K Street to Constitution Avenue. Delivery trucks are being routed to an off-site screening facility, city leaders said.
These bridges are closed as of 6 a.m. Tuesday. Closures will remain until 6 a.m. Thursday.
• Theodore Roosevelt – No eastbound traffic. Westbound traffic is unaffected.
• Arlington Memorial – No traffic in either direction.
• I-395 and 14th Street – No northbound traffic. Southbound traffic is unaffected.
• South Capitol Street – No northbound traffic. Southbound traffic is unaffected.
• 695 and 11 Street – No northbound traffic. Southbound traffic is unaffected.
• John Phillip Sousa (Pennsylvania Avenue) – No northbound traffic. Southbound traffic is unaffected.
The Key Bridge is open, but access to the Whitehurst Freeway and M Street is closed. All inbound traffic from will make a left turn onto Canal Road/MacArthur Boulevard. The Chain Bridge is open.
Essential employees were told to access Washington from Interstate 295 at East Capitol Street, Benning Road or Route 50. The Wilson and American Legion bridges are open.
Here is the full list of closures.