State of the Union street closures in effect; drivers warned of heavy congestion in downtown DC

A barrier is placed behind a security fence in preparation for President Joe Biden's State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)(AP/Patrick Semansky)

Road closures were in place near the U.S. Capitol and in downtown D.C. due to the State of the Union address, and those closures led to some disruptions for commuters.

In addition to the street closures around the Capitol that are typical for the annual presidential address, drivers around D.C. reported heavy congestion and street closures throughout downtown D.C.

WTOP traffic reporter Dave Dildine said he’s fielded several calls about very slow traffic downtown, near Metro Center, Gallery Place, Federal Triangle and Foggy Bottom, and it’s “more than what you would expect from your typical array of Capitol closures,” Dildine said.

What’s unusual is the amount of congestion that has developed downtown, and “It’s very likely that there are more road blocks that are being put into place,” he said.

D.C. police said they began closing streets in the downtown area about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday and that drivers should expect “heavy congestion.”

Metro advised bus customers of possible disruptions Monday night, as road closures may result in detours or delays in the downtown D.C. area. Some 36 Metrobus routes may be affected.

“Customers should avoid the area if possible and are encouraged to use Metrorail as an alternative,” Metro said in a statement.

The following streets around the complex were closed Tuesday night until after 11:15 p.m..

Beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the following streets will be closed to traffic:

  • East Capitol Street between Second Street NE/SE and First Street NE/SE
  • Constitution Avenue between Second Street NE and Louisiana Avenue NW
  • D Street between 2nd Street NE and First Street NE
  • First Street between Constitution Avenue NE and Independence Avenue SE
  • New Jersey Avenue between C Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW
  • First Street between Louisiana Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW
  • Pennsylvania Avenue between First Street NW and 3rd Street NW
  • Maryland Avenue between First Street SW and 3rd Street SW
  • Independence Avenue between Washington Avenue SW and 2nd Street SE

Beginning at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, the following streets will be closed to traffic:

  • Second Street from Constitution Avenue NE to East Capitol Street NE/SE
  • First Street from Columbus Circle to D Street NE
  • Delaware Avenue from Columbus Circle to D Street, NE
  • D Street from First Street NE to Louisiana Avenue NW
  • Louisiana Avenue from C Street NW to Constitution Avenue NW
  • First Street from C Street NW to Louisiana Avenue NW
  • Constitution Avenue from 3rd Street NW to Louisiana Avenue NW
  • Independence Avenue from 3rd Street SW to Washington Avenue SW
  • Washington Avenue from Independence Avenue SW to 2nd Street SW

Capitol Police said these are typical closures during the State of the Union and aren’t related to any specific demonstrations that are in the works.

The following Metrobus routes may be affected due to the road closures:

  • 3F, 3Y, 5A, 16E, 16Y, 31, 32, 33, 36, 38B, 42, 43, 52, 54, 59, 63, 64, 70, 74, 79, 80, 96, D4, D6, D8, G8, L2, N2, N4, N6, P6, S2, S9, X2, X8, X9

The black, chain link fencing is also back up around the U.S. Capitol complex.

The unpopular security measure was known to be under consideration in recent days ahead of Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, and on Sunday, U.S. Capitol Police confirmed it would be back in place ahead of possible protest activity timed for President Joe Biden’s speech.

The move to reinstall the fencing is one of several other security measures that were put in place. Police have also requested help from additional, outside law enforcement agencies at both the federal and local levels. As many as 700 national guard troops were activated to further enhance security around the complex.

A barrier is placed behind a security fence in preparation for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

In a statement, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said she understood the rationale behind the return of the fencing.

Norton is a critic of fencing. She’s consistently lobbied to keep the complex open to the public, including during winter storms so kids were able to sled down the hills.

Norton also vowed to “ensure that the fencing comes down as soon as possible to restore freedom of movement for District of Columbia residents and the general public.”

Acting Assistant Chief for Capitol Police Sean Gallagher said Monday that the fence is out of an abundance of caution and in conjunction with the request for the Secret Service.

“I say it’s temporary. We are very confident in the security plan that is put forth for the State of the Union with all the partners standing up here and the other partners that are not able to be here today. Once we get through the State of the Union and have a successful event, a decision we made soon after about the removal of that fence,” Gallagher said.

WTOP’s John Domen and Abigail Constantino contributed to this report. 

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