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Getting around on July 4

[This post has been updated]

Best bets on the Mall | Submit photos | Your take | Outside D.C.

Here's a guide to help you travel to and from the July 4 events on and around the Mall. Check the Capital Weather Gang for the latest, but the forecast for Sunday is sunny and hot.

Mall and monuments
-- People can enter the Mall starting at 10 a.m. For security, everyone must enter via one of the designated Mall Event Entrance points. (See below.)
-- The Capitol grounds open at 3 p.m. for visitors wanting to view A Capitol Fourth. There's a security check for all visitors.
-- The Washington Monument will close at 5 p.m. on Saturday and remain closed until 9 a.m. Monday.
-- Tourmobile will not operate tours on Sunday. The tours will resume Monday.
-- The World War II Memorial closes at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Mall Event Entrance points
-- West end of Arlington Memorial Bridge at Arlington Memorial Circle;
-- Parkway Drive NW at Lincoln Memorial Circle;
-- Constitution Avenue at 23rd Street NW;
-- Constitution Avenue at 17th Street NW;
-- Constitution Avenue between 14th and 15th streets NW;
-- Independence Avenue and 14th Street SW;
-- West side of 14th Street, at Jefferson Drive SW;
-- Maine Avenue at Raoul Wallenberg Place SW (formerly 15th Street);
-- East Basin Drive SW, at Inlet Bridge.

George Washington Parkway Event entrances
The GW Parkway will be open to traffic all day Sunday. These are the access points for picnicking and watching fireworks.
-- Marine Corps Memorial and Netherlands Carillon (no access to Mall);
-- Memorial Circle (access to Mall via Arlington Memorial Bridge limited to pedestrians only);
-- Columbia Island/Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove (no access to Potomac Riverfront or Mall);
-- Gravelly Point, north of Reagan National Airport (no access to Mall);
-- Washington Sailing Marina at Daingerfield Island (no access to Mall).

Street closings
They cover many of the streets around the Mall and along the Potomac River in the District and Arlington County. (That's why you should look at the Metro information below this.)

The National Park Service says these streets will be closed from about 6 a.m. Sunday till about 11 p.m. unless otherwise noted. (Police can alter the closings at their discretion.)

-- Arlington Memorial Bridge to Memorial Circle on the Virginia end of the bridge;
-- Rock Creek Parkway south of Virginia Avenue NW to Lincoln Memorial Circle, including all approaches and ramps;
-- Lincoln Memorial Circle and all approaches and ramps into and out of Lincoln Memorial Circle, including Henry Bacon Drive NW and Daniel Chester French Drive SW;
-- Ramp from Theodore Roosevelt Bridge to Constitution Avenue NW and Ohio Drive SW;
-- Inbound traffic on I-66 will be directed to the E Street Expressway;
-- Constitution Avenue NW from 23rd Street, NW to 14th Street NW;
-- Constitution Avenue NW from Pennsylvania Avenue, NW to 14th Street, NW, starting at 11 a.m.;
-- 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd streets NW between Constitution Avenue NW and C Street NW;
-- 18th Street NW between Constitution Avenue NW and Virginia Avenue NW;
-- Virginia Avenue NW between Constitution Avenue, NW and 18th Street NW;
-- 17th Street from E Street NW south to Independence Avenue SW;
-- C and D streets NW from 17th to 18th streets NW;
-- 15th Street from E Street NW south to Raoul Wallenberg Place SW;
-- Raoul Wallenberg Place SW from Independence Ave. to Maine Avenue;
-- Independence Avenue SW west of 14th Street SW to 23rd Street SW including the merge with Rock Creek Parkway;
-- Madison Drive NW from 15th Street to Third Street;
-- Jefferson Drive SW from 15th Street to Third Street;
-- Seventh Street between Constitution Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW;
-- Fourth Street between Constitution Avenue, NW and Independence Avenue SW;
-- Ohio Drive SW from the Inlet Bridge to Independence Avenue SW;
-- West Basin Drive SW from Ohio Drive to Independence Avenue;
-- East Basin Drive SW east of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial at Ohio Drive SW;
-- Third Street between Pennsylvania Avenue NW and Maryland Avenue SW;
-- 14th Street between Pennsylvania Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW will be closed at 11 a.m. until after the fireworks;
-- Ramp from southbound and northbound George Washington Parkway to Memorial Circle;
-- Ramp from northbound Route 110 to Memorial Avenue;
-- Ramp from VA-27 to Memorial Circle;
-- Eastbound Route 50 ramps to the GW Parkway and roads in the immediate area of U.S. Marine Corps Memorial;
-- Southbound GW Parkway ramp to 14th Street Bridge;
-- Northbound GW Parkway ramp to 14th Street Bridge.

D.C. parking restrictions
It's going to be really difficult to park anywhere around the Mall. The District Department of Transportation is posting emergency no parking signs on many streets even though the restrictions haven't taken effect yet. Leave the signs alone. You can park in these areas legally until the restrictions begin, and even if the signs are removed, the parking restrictions will be enforced on July 4.

Operation Fast-Forward
The region's police and transportation officials will again be conducting Operation Fast Forward, an annual exercise that allows them to expedite traffic flow after the fireworks while they test emergency evacuation plans.

On five evacuation routes, signals will be retimed to provide longer green lights for traffic leaving the District. The operation is scheduled to begin about half an hour after the end of the fireworks and continue for the next hour.

These are the five routes:
-- Connecticut Avenue between K Street and Chevy Chase Circle
-- Georgia Avenue/Seventh Street between Mt. Vernon Square and Eastern Avenue.
-- 14th Street between E Street and the 14th Street Bridge.
-- K Street between 17th Street and the Whitehurst Freeway, then Canal Road between the Whitehurst and Chain Bridge.
-- Pennsylvania Avenue SE between Independence Avenue and Southern Avenue, then Branch Avenue between Pennsylvania and Southern Avenue.

Virginia green lights
The Virginia Department of Transportation also tries to help get traffic in and out of the District by adjusting the signal timing at 116 intersections along certain main roads. These include Routes 1, 7, 29, 50, 123, 236 and 244. VDOT says the signals will be timed to move traffic into the District during the day and then outbound to the south and west from 9:30 p.m. to midnight.

July 4 baseball
The Nationals will play the New York Mets at 1:35 p.m. Sunday in Nationals Park. That puts extra traffic around South Capitol and M streets and along the 11th and 14th Street bridges and the Southeast-Southwest Freeway. It also adds riders to the Green Line.

The trains will be crowded, especially after the fireworks, but they're usually better than the buses, which are slowed by the crowds and detoured by the police.

Metrorail will have extra service on Sunday for people heading to and from the Mall and the Nationals game. Metro lots and garages are free on weekends and holidays. But remember that the rail and bus fares have gone up. See our Metro fare calculator. It's always best to have enough on your Farecard or SmarTrip card to cover the round trip to an event so you don't have to wait on extremely long lines at the fare vending machines.

Metrorail will run from 7 a.m. to midnight, and operate near rush-hour level service from 6 p.m. to midnight. Trains will run on their usual routes on all five rail lines. But note that the Smithsonian Station will be closed until the fireworks end. (The fireworks are scheduled to start about 9:10 p.m.)

Spread out to the other stations near the Mall: Foggy Bottom, Metro Center, Archives, Gallery Place, Judiciary Square, Union Station, L'Enfant Plaza, Capitol South and Federal Center SW.

Last July 4, Metrorail took passengers on more than 600,000 trips. "People should expect to be waiting in long lines to get back into Metro stations after the fireworks, perhaps for an hour or more, said Dave Kubicek, Metro's acting deputy general manager. "To avoid waiting in long lines, people should use a variety of stations for entry on the way home."

No track maintenance projects have been scheduled for the July 4th weekend. On Monday, the national holiday, Metrorail will operate on a Sunday schedule, opening at 7 a.m. and closing at midnight. Metrobus will also operate on a Sunday schedule.

Metrobus will operate on a Sunday schedule on July 4, meaning there's reduced service. Because of the widespread street closings, many routes will be detoured. For more information and further updates on specific detours. Check Metro's Web site at for updates.

With all the detours on Metrobus and service changes on Metrorail, it's best not to rely on the Next Bus or Trip Planner estimates in calculating your transfers and arrival times.

By Robert Thomson  | July 2, 2010; 5:30 PM ET
Categories:  Events, Metro, Metrobus, National Mall  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, July 4  
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On Sunday, the bulk of the rush for Metro seems to be anticipated for after 6pm. Does anyone have a sense of how bad Metro Center will be Sunday morning around 11am? I have to transfer from Red to Orange to go to Foggy Bottom.

I figure that 11am should be early enough to avoid Nationals traffic for their 1:30pm game, but I'm just wondering if that early in the day I should be expecting crowds like there were at the Cherry Blossom Festival or crowds more like an average rush hour?

Posted by: informedtraveller | July 1, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

informedtraveller: I remember that it Metro is somewhat crowded around then, but not catastrophically so. You'll be able to get to where you're going.

The real problems will come after the fireworks end, and everyone tries to leave at the same time. Huge lines develop to enter the stations near the capitol lawn, such as Penn Quarter and Union Station, and it is impossible to get on a train without a long, long wait. However, once you get out to Gallery Place and Metro Center, the crowds have thinned out and you can walk right down to the platforms with no trouble (especially if you walk out to the front of the platforms to board the less-crowded first car of the train).

Posted by: stuckman | July 1, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, stuckman - I appreciate the info.

Posted by: informedtraveller | July 2, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock, all of those Mall security entrance points are on the western end. Is there any security, or security checkpoints, on the eastern end, such as by L'enfant Plaza, the National Museum of the American Indian, and National Gallery of Art?

Posted by: RedBirdie | July 2, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

No Mention is WMATA will operate the special BLUE LINE EXPRESS across the yellow line bridge, lake they have done in years past.

Posted by: Robbnitafl | July 3, 2010 3:01 AM | Report abuse

No Mention if WMATA will operate the special BLUE LINE EXPRESS across the yellow line bridge, lake they have done in years past.

Posted by: Robbnitafl | July 3, 2010 3:01 AM | Report abuse

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