Traffic not so ‘cheery’ as cherry blossom visitors get stuck for hours

WTOP's traffic reporter Steve Dresner recommends other options for seeing the cherry blossoms

As thousands of visitors descended on the District this weekend to see the world-famous cherry blossoms in peak bloom, some drivers went from admiring the pink and white blossoms to seeing red.

Drivers trying to make their way around Southwest D.C., the Tidal Basin, the Wharf, Hains Point and the National Mall wrote emails, called the WTOP traffic center and tweeted all about their frustrations on Saturday evening as they faced standstill traffic for hours.

Drivers reported an over two-hourlong standstill on the roads near the East Potomac Tennis Center on the edge of Hains Point.

WTOP’s Dave Dildine said he spoke with drivers who were standing outside their vehicles because they had been desperately stuck for so long. Dildine noted the closure of Buckeye Drive, which cuts through the park, as one reason for the bottleneck. In addition, Maine Avenue and other roads on the opposite side of the Washington Channel were difficult to navigate.

Just before 6 p.m., U.S. Park Police tweeted an advisory to drivers warning of “dense” traffic.

Multiple WTOP listeners sent us emails, one writing that they had been stuck on the side of Hains Point across from National Airport for nearly three hours, starting at 4:30 p.m.

WTOP traffic reporter Joe Conway put it this way around 6:30 p.m.: “A lot of cars jammed their way in, now they’re trying to find a way to get them out as quickly as possible, but not quite as quickly as you might like.”

Others, however, wondered why people would even drive to the Tidal Basin during peak bloom.

Just before 9 p.m., WTOP’s Steve Dresner reported the traffic was easing around the area. With weather improving Sunday, he suggested people “need to look outside the box if they plan on visiting the cherry blossoms.”

He said those wanting to see the blossoms should consider taking the train or even parking in other parts of the District and walking down.

Based on calls to the WTOP traffic center on Saturday, Dresner noted “some were taken by surprise about how difficult it was getting around the Tidal Basin and Potomac Park.”

The scene close to the Tidal Basin, however, was certainly different from the one during peak bloom around this time three years ago, in the early days of the pandemic — when the National Park Service closed some roads and paths as a way to promote social distancing.

Dan Friedell

Dan Friedell is a digital writer for WTOP. He came to the D.C. area in 2007 to work as digital editor for, and since then has worked for a number of local and national news organizations.

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