WASHINGTON – A large migration to the nation’s capital will peak this weekend as the final preparations for the 57th Presidential Inauguration are rushed to completion.
Downtown streets will close, Metro will adopt a nonstop rush hour schedule and city bus routes will change as locals and visitors descend on Washington D.C. for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
Travel into and through downtown Washington will become increasingly difficult as the weekend progresses. Those planning to attend the inauguration on Monday morning are strongly encouraged to use public transportation.
Driving and Road Restrictions
Street closures in downtown Washington will go into effect before dawn on Monday morning. All streets near the National Mall will be closed. In general, vehicles will be prohibited on streets from north of Lafayette Park to south of the National Mall as well as east to Capitol Hill and Union Station.
Vehicle restrictions across a broader portion of downtown, including parts of Chinatown and the West End, will be implemented on Sunday and will last until early Tuesday morning.
From Virginia, inbound drivers on Interstate 66 will be directed onto the northbound Potomac River Freeway toward Pennsylvania Avenue and Virginia Avenue. The Memorial Bridge will be closed to vehicular travel, but pedestrians will be allowed to cross the bridge. On Interstate 395, northbound drivers will be able to continue onto the Southwest Freeway, but the ramps to 14th Street, the 12th Street Expressway and the 3rd Street Tunnel will all be closed.
The 3rd Street Tunnel (I-395) will be closed in both directions between New York Avenue NW and the Southeast/Southwest Freeway.
Travelers headed into upper Northwest and Northeast Washington may find the trip less complicated. The Key Bridge and Chain Bridge will remain open. All Anacostia River bridges will remain open.
From Maryland, all routes into the city will be open.
HOV restrictions will be lifted around the region on Monday.
Travelers who are planning on driving in the city this weekend should stay alert as they approach crosswalks. There will be plenty of pedestrians and cyclists out and about visiting the local attractions on Saturday and Sunday, along with huge crowds walking and biking to and from the National Mall on Monday.
Besides the abnormal morning rush hour, traffic on routes outside the city should remain light, as Monday is a federal holiday.
Metrorail will operate on a regular weekend schedule on Saturday and Sunday. On Inauguration Day, Metro plans to provide nonstop rush hour service from 4 a.m. until 2 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Be prepared for heavy traffic near the outermost Metro station parking lots beginning early Monday morning. Some parking areas may fill to capacity quickly. Metro will enforce normal weekday parking fees at all parking facilities.
Passengers planning to ride Metro on Monday may want to consider purchasing a farecard in advance. Expect long lines at ticketing kiosks and large crowds on station platforms. Officials may intermittently stop customers at the entrances to some stations to prevent overcrowding on the station platforms. Escalators at some stations may be intentionally disabled to promote the flow of customers to and from the gates.
For security purposes, the Smithsonian, Archives and Mt. Vernon Square stations will be closed all day.
The Metro stations closest to The Mall will be the most crowded before and especially after the ceremony and parades conclude. L’Enfant Plaza will likely be among the most crowded stations on Monday.
To maximize space, bicycles and large coolers and containers will be prohibited on Metro trains throughout the long weekend.
Downtown Metro bus routes have been shortened or rerouted around the street closures near the National Mall. The Circulator bus will not be running on Monday, Jan. 21, but regular service will resume on Tuesday, January 22. Customers who wish to travel through downtown areas should use Metrorail to complete their trip.
Travel by Plane and Train
Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) expects the largest crowds at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport on Tuesday, the day after Inauguration Day. Passengers with outgoing flights should arrive at the airport two to four hours before their departure time.
In Maryland, MARC trains will operate on a special Inauguration Day fare and train schedule. Tickets are limited. Regular MARC tickets will not be accepted.
In Virginia, there will be no VRE service on Monday.
For more, see Max Smith’s tips for plane and train travel on Inauguration Day.
There are many celebrations set to take place around the city this weekend that could lead to localized delays.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is celebrated on Monday. Expect a great deal of foot traffic along Independence Avenue near the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial as visitors pay tribute to the civil rights leader. A parade and peace walk will step off from Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE and Milwaukee Place SE on Saturday at 11 a.m. On Sunday evening, the “Let Freedom Ring” concert featuring Smokey Robinson and the Let Freedom Ring Celebration Choir will take place at the Kennedy Center.
Several balls and galas will take place around the city this weekend. The official Inaugural Ball will take place Monday evening at the DC Convention Center. Expect crowds and congestion near the venue. Those with tickets should remember that the Mt. Vernon Square Metro station is scheduled to be closed on Monday.
The WTOP Weather Team is forecasting the mercury to begin dropping late Sunday as a cold front sweeps through the region. Early morning temperatures on Inauguration Day will likely be in the 20s and will only rise to the mid-30s by noon. A few snow showers or flurries are possible, but no significant accumulation is expected. If people are headed downtown, they should dress warmly, in layers.