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Neighbors Worry About New Stadium Traffic

Just days before the Nationals begin their final season at RFK Stadium, the baseball team's soon-to-be neighbors in Southwest Washington met last night with the officials and consultants who are trying to make this new relationship work.

Nationals Stadium sketch.jpg Stadium design sketch released by District.

The neighbors are worried about the baseball fans, and many find no solace in the District's experience in arranging the flow of the baseball traffic to and from RFK. They talk about differences in geography and fear that on game days they will become prisoners in their homes as traffic moves toward the new stadium. They worry about the safety of their children.

Concern extends up into the southern portion of Capitol Hill. Those folks are worried that some baseball-bound drivers might choose to park north of the Southeast-Southwest Freeway and walk down to the stadium on South Capitol Street.

The government officials and consultants did a pretty good job of describing their plans and listening to the responses. The residents who invested in this community have a lot at stake, so it was good to see leaders like District Transportation Director Emeka Moneme speak to the people and then stay through the rest of the lengthy meeting to hear their concerns.

The key challenge for those planning the 2008 inaugural season is to spread out the arriving and departing baseball fans without damaging the surrounding neighborhoods. Spreading out an arriving crowd is a good trick when you know they all have to wind up in the same place.

Most drivers are likely to use South Capitol Street and most transit riders will get off at the Navy Yard Station. Season ticket holders will park closest to the stadium, while other drivers will likely be parking farther to the east. So far, no parking has been arranged on the western side of South Capitol.

But many residents are worried about Virginians coming across the 14th Street Bridge and using east-west streets in Southwest -- the streets where they live -- to reach stadium parking. Many would like to see P Street SW blocked off at South Capitol, but the planners said no decision has been made.

As for street parking, the District plans to use a similar system to the one employed during the baseball and soccer months around RFK. To park on the street in whatever residential zone the District winds up designating, drivers will need a residential parking sticker or a visitor's pass. Each household will get one visitor's pass. (Don't lose it.)

We'll be talking much, much more about this planning before 2008, and I'm very interested in getting your thoughts and questions, both here on the blog and in my Dr. Gridlock e-mail, which is

Meanwhile, the 2007 baseball season at RFK starts Monday at 1:05 p.m. Don't forget about the restrictions on neighborhood parking, and take Metro if at all possible. The transit authority Metro will operate two express trains: An Orange Line express departing the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Station at 12:14 p.m., and a Blue Line express departing Franconia-Springfield Station at 12:04 p.m.

Each train will operate in express service to the Rosslyn Station, make local stops to Metro Center, operate express to L'Enfant Plaza, and operate express to its final destination, the Stadium-Armory Station.

Look for a train with the first two cars wrapped in the red and white Nationals logo. Listen for announcements advising you that you're on the special express.

By Robert Thomson  |  March 30, 2007; 10:48 AM ET
Categories:  Stadium  
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Oh, what a glorious time it'll be for the District when folks can park in and around Capitol Hill and take a leisurely stroll down South Capitol Street to the ballpark.

That'll be the legacy of Mayor Williams, but right now that's fantasy. The Freeway will effectively serve as a river or insurmountable boundary for parking/traffic.

Posted by: Kim | March 30, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Park in and around Capitol Hill? Are you serious? Over the past two years parking on the residential streets south of Pennsylvania Avenue has become a virtual impossibility. As recently as 10 years ago most of my neighbors used public trnasportation, but as many of those homes have been sold to new residents who seem to require one car per household resident -well, I don't encourge suburban friends to drive in and park when they come for a visit... And woe be the Sunday that an afternoon baseball game coincides with church services. Don't get me wrong - I'm THRILLED with the successes of Barracks Row & H Street, and businesses like Results on G Street. I'll be a regular at the new stadium, too. I'm just a wee bit concerned about how it's all going to be managed.

Posted by: Karen | March 30, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

1) If you live in the city there is no such thing as traffic. Get a grip. YOU LIVE IN THE CITY! There will always be traffic. Yes people are going to cut through. Let me say again..YOU LIVE IN THE CITY.
2) If you drive to the stadium don't complain about traffic and parking. If you want to complain, take the metro. The stadium is not in located in a rural area. It is IN THE CITY! Lots of people live around the stadium. They need to be able to get around also.

Good grief. Why do people want their cake and eat it too? You never hear of people in New York complaining about cut through traffic. You never see streets in Manhattan blocked off. Yes, use one way streets to keep the traffic flowing but there will be traffic and parking issues. Deal with it or take public transportation!

Posted by: NatFan | March 30, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

hey NatFan, you're right. i think the big concern that people living around the stadium have is that there are going to be loud drunk nats fans messing up planting beds, etc. you're right, they live in the city, and you have to expect certain things. i applaud them for getting out in front of all this and making sure that the city does what it can to minimize the impact of thousands of people heading through what has been a quiet area for so long. in the end, if the city can come up with some good wayfinding signs and traffic plans to funnel people into the right areas (like down M street, etc.) things should work out. i'm not going to vilify people who get out there ahead of things and trying to rectify potential problems before they get bad. good luck to the sou'westers though, they're going to need it.

Posted by: IMGoph | March 30, 2007 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Take the Metro to Eastern Market, walk down to Barracks Row, have a few pops, stroll on down to M St. then down Half St or wtf they are down to the stadium. Avoid the traffic and get your fat a$$ some exercise.

Posted by: Stick | March 30, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Is anyone besides those of us in Davidsonville upset about the pending closure of the Rte. 214 bridge across the Patuxent River for redecking? SHA wants to close the bridge for 5 months starting in August 2007. This is a major commute link for residents in east-central Prince Georges County commuting to Annapolis, and for residents in south-central Anne Arundel County commuting to Washington DC, or jobs in Prince Georges County.

SHA wants to detour traffic either to the Governor's Bridge road bridge, or the Rt. 50 bridge. The traffic through Davidsonville, and through the Rt.3/301 corridor will be horrendous as people try to find shortcuts from Rt. 214 to either bridge on the winding country roads on both sides of the river. The number of accidents on both sides of the river is likely to sky-rocket, and the traffic woes, already bad on both Rt. 424 and Rt.3/301, will increase substantially. Especially if there is an accident on Rt. 50, I-97, or even I-95 or Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Whenever there is an accident on any of those roads, we always see Gridlock in Davidsonville, and I imagine the same is true along the Rt.3/301 corridor as well.

Posted by: Geo-gal Green | March 30, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

There is no ideal solution. RFK is ideal for getting to and from games, whether by public transport or by car, because of the direct access road off the Southwest-Southeast Freeway. (Why the team's directions to RFK don't list that road is a good question.) But it's precisely because it's so easy to get there and park that it doesn't fit everything that city planners want from a stadium these days, i.e., the chance for all the restaurants and pubs and such to grow up around it like we see around the MCI/Verizon Center (compare the area around that facility to the area around FedEx Field). I live just outside the Beltway in Virginia and from RFK I can be home, going by car, within 25 minutes of getting into my car at RFK. It would take an hour by Metro.

For the new ballpark, DC ought to face up to the reality that many people coming from Virginia and Maryland will find the idea of taking Metro to be a massive irritant. Most people won't realize that the Orange/Blue Line stops up on Capitol Hill are within walking distance (and the fact that you have to walk through some very shady neighborhoods ought not matter because there will be plenty of other baseball fans). Therefore, they will want to change to the Green Line to get to Navy Yard. But depending on where you're coming from, this may involve changing trains twice, and I suspect that changing at L'Enfant Plaza after games may be a mob scene. So I think DC ought to face reality and say this--look, there is not enough parking so people need to take Metro, but folks coming from Virginia and Maryland should consider parking at the Anacostia Metro stop and either taking the train one stop to Navy Yard or walking over the Douglass Bridge. I realize that this goes against DC's objection to anyone daring to drive into the city, but it's a REALISTIC option because there's a parking garage over at the Anacostia stop. (Once again, while the surrounding area is somewhat shady, if enough people are walking over the bridge that option becomes safer.) It's time for DC to get off the "Metro is the cure for all that ails us" mantra and recognize that they need to come up with a realistic BALANCE of both public transport and driving.

I might even consider, for weekend games, the idea of driving over the Wilson Bridge to the Branch Avenue stop and riding from there. Weekday games are going to be interesting since I work downtown. Walking to Gallery Place and taking the Green Line may be the way to go.

Posted by: Rich | March 30, 2007 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Natfan, this is why many of us IN THE CITY called for the stadium to be built at the RFK Stadium, which while IN THE CITY was incredibly accessible by car and Metro with enough major roads and parking to satisfy all. Building the stadium in a part of town more suited to residential and office space than nightlife pursuits, with its limited ingress and egress and a single Green line stop from which 90% of the team's fanbase figures to transfer, comes up short to what RFK Stadium would offer. And don't trot out the revitalization card for why it needed to be shoe-horned closer to downtown, because the area was already experiencing revitalization with the SE Federal Center redo as well as the DOT and Navy Yard renovations.

More office space and residential development would've complemented this area much more than the stadium will - especially with big parts of the adjacent ballpark district having massive garages on top of them rather than revenue-generating retail. We could've had the best of all worlds with the RFK Stadium site -where the consultants said thousands will end up parking at anyway and shuttling, with the shuttle time eating into the time they could've been spending money IN THE CITY at ballpark restaurants, shops, and such.

Posted by: Loo | March 31, 2007 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Once again people choose convenience over quality of life. A ballpark @ RFK would not produce restaurants, shops and such. How many years of evidence do you need? How about 45 years?

A downtown ballpark may not exclusively be the reason the area is turning around but is has sped up the process and is producing more quality of life amenities like restaurants and activity. Something a few thousand office workers alone cannot. As a result it is increasing the tax base so more amenities are available to residents IN THE CITY. A ballpark @ RFK be a money hole that produces nothing for residents besides the irritation of traffic and the joy of baseball. The new ballpark has jump-started the creation of a neighborhood, a ballpark village if you will.

Posted by: Urbanist | April 5, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

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