‘Form a plan B’: National Christmas Tree Lighting could bring heavy traffic along with good cheer

The National Christmas Tree Lighting — set to be held Thursday evening — is one of the most spectacular holiday traditions in D.C., partly for the incredible light show and partly for the incredible traffic jams it always seems to bring.

But WTOP Traffic Reporter Dave Dildine said it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Unlike crashes, if you know about a road closure in advance, you have the opportunity to form a plan B,” Dildine said.



Plan B could look like taking an alternate route — such as K Street — to avoid the holiday festivities taking place at the White House, grabbing the Metro (which admittedly could come with its own headaches) or simply planning to telework for the day, according to Dildine.

“The tree lighting closures were notorious for creating bad traffic,” he said. “But last year proved that if there isn’t enough traffic, the closures don’t really matter much and the mood can be more festive.”

The roads around downtown D.C. have not returned to their pre-pandemic levels, but volume has rebounded enough to create issues if people don’t make an effort to steer clear of the Ellipse.

In addition to traffic issues, a group of protesters will be at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion, singing carols about conservation, climate and oil and gas drilling. The environmental activists with Friends of the Earth plans to protest at 4 p.m.

Below is a full list of road closures for the tree lighting ceremony. So, for goodness sake, be good and take Dildine’s sage advice: Steer clear of the area during your commute.


The following streets will be posted as Emergency No Parking on Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.:

  • 17th Street from Pennsylvania Avenue to Constitution Avenue Northwest
  • Constitution Avenue between 18th Street and 14th Street Northwest
  • 15th Street between H Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest

The following streets will be closed to vehicles from about 1 to 7 p.m.:

  • 17th Street between Pennsylvania Avenue and Independence Avenue Southwest
  • C Street between 17th and 18th streets Northwest
  • D Street between 17th and 18th streets Northwest
  • E Street between 17th and 18th streets Northwest
  • F Street between 17th and 18th streets Northwest
  • G Street between 17th and 18th streets Northwest
  • New York Avenue between 17th and 18th streets Northwest
  • Constitution Avenue between 18th and 14th streets Northwest
  • 15th Street between H Street and Madison Drive Northwest (Traffic will be allowed to flow south on 15th Street from Madison Drive Northwest)
  • Pennsylvania Avenue between 14th and 15th streets Northwest
  • E Street between 14th and 15th street Northwest
  • F Street between 14th and 15th streets Northwest
  • G Street between 14th and 15th streets Northwest
  • New York Avenue between 14th and 15th streets Northwest

The tree lighting itself is not open to the public, but CBS will broadcast the ceremony Sunday, Dec. 5, at 8:30 p.m.

After the ceremony, the National Christmas Tree site will be open to the public Dec. 4 through Jan. 1, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

And if you’re headed to Capital One Arena for the Caps game at 7 p.m., make sure you give yourself extra time for travel.

WTOP’s Rick Massimo contributed to this report.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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