Tree lighting downtown to slow commute Friday

Watch a live stream of the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony beginning at 4:30 p.m.

WASHINGTON – Sudden gridlock is common near the White House when motorcades are afoot. This time, the congestion comes with some advanced notice.

The National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony and concert on the Ellipse begins at 5 p.m. during the Friday afternoon rush hour. Organizers say it will take place rain or shine.

In years past, the closure of the streets of either side of the Ellipse — 15th and 17th streets — left many downtown commuters sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

WTOP veteran traffic reporter Bob Marbourg says it would probably payoff to plan on “going into work-around mode.”

“If you know something is going to be there, you have the opportunity to rethink your route and go for the end-run around it,” Marbourg says.

D.C. police tweeted out a list of street closures early Friday for advance planning:

Jim Battagliese, Director of Traffic and Weather at WTOP, offers this advice:

“If you’re trying to get out of town, the best way to go is away from the White House. Whichever side of the White House you’re on, head the opposite direction. If you’re on the west side, exit to the west. If you’re on the east side, exit to the east.”

Heading south from K Street on either 19th Street or 9th Street will probably get you around the event. The problem with that route is that everyone else will think of that. The challenge will be to outthink the competition ahead of time. Forewarned is forearmed.

WMATA also says more than two dozen downtown Metro bus routes will be affected by the street closures. Metro officials are also expecting the downtown Metro stations, including Farragut North, to be extra crowded. Click here for a full list.

Stay with WTOP for all the latest on road and traffic conditions.

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