WASHINGTON — The grand opening of MGM National Harbor in Maryland is eight weeks away.
While residents of Oxon Hill and Fort Washington have raised concerns about the traffic that will be generated by the big gambling venue, residents are being told that road improvements, technology and officers on the ground and in the air will combine to manage the traffic impact.
“There will be traffic, there will be congestion. Traffic will not always flow at the posted speed limit. There’s going to be a lot of people coming to this venue. They’re going to want to see it. They’re going to want to participate in the opening of it,” said Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski.
But Stawinski said county and state police, MGM staff and the Maryland State Highway Administration are among those who have worked for two years on a plan to manage the increased traffic.
About $10 million has been spent on road improvements, including road widening, creating dedicated lanes from the interstates and installing new traffic signals.
Up to 180 police officers will be deployed to manage traffic in the first 24 hours of the casino’s operation and airborne officers will provide a bird’s-eye view.
A command center will direct traffic operations and have control of a constellation of electronic signs whose messages can be changed to redirect traffic away from congested routes.
While efforts are being made to limit traffic impact — like the gambling inside — there are no sure bets.
“We’re really not going to understand completely how this is going to operate, this venue in this community, until it actually opens. But I think we’ve done an awful lot of good preparation. I think we’re ready,” Stawinski said.
Up to 30,000 visitors are expected in the first 24-hour period when the casino opens at midnight Dec. 8. Stawinski said that the numbers will be spread over a 24-hour period, unlike the rush to a Redskins or Maryland game.
The hotel casino’s parking garage contains 4,800 parking spaces. There are additional lots with 1,200 more spaces. Employees are required to park at Rosecroft Raceway and are shuttled to the site.
Oxon Hill Road as it crosses National Harbor is expected to experience the brunt of heavy traffic, but planners said improvements made to the roadway are expected to have a significant impact helping to lessen congestion.
For more information on the traffic management plan, go to Prince George’s County’s website.