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Navigating Roads to Nats Park

What if you decide not to chant the Take Metro mantra and instead drive to the new baseball stadium opening this weekend?

SCS traffic.jpg South Capitol Street traffic on a recent weeknight. (Thomson)

If you hold season tickets and paid the substantial extra charge for parking, you've got directions to your parking area from the Nationals. The team continues to develop its Way to Go page, showing various options for getting to the games. This is the directions page with directions for those with reserved parking spaces.

The presentation includes an interactive map that, like the Way to Go page, continues to add useful information. Now, you can identify your parking area, then pick your starting point, and the map will display a best-bet route for you.

Not displayed -- and I wish they would do it -- are routes to Lot 8 at RFK Stadium, where the plebians will park for free and ride the free Nats Express shuttle bus to the new stadium. Drivers have been asking me if they can still use the RFK access road to get from the Southeast-Southwest Freeway to the RFK lot. For the Saturday exhibition game and the Sunday home opener, it's open at 3 p.m. For other games, it will be open an hour and a half before game time.

The free shuttles will leave Lot 8 every 10 minutes for the new stadium. They'll drop off their passengers at 300 M St. SE, on the north side of M, across from the U.S. Department of Transportation offices and about a five-block walk from the stadium.

(When D.C. United plays at RFK, Nats parking will be relocated to Lot 7 and so will the Nats Express.)

parking meters.jpg New multi-space meters installed near stadium. (Thomson)

A lot of planning has gone into this traffic management system, but expect congestion, especially starting Monday, April 7, when baseball fans will be driving the same roads as homebound commuters. Traffic will likely be especially heavy on Maine Avenue SW, coming off I-395, on South Capitol Street coming off the Southeast-Southwest Freeway, at at the intersection of M and South Capitol streets and on M Street SE in front of the Navy Yard.

Many fans are unfamiliar with this area, but even those who are will see traffic patterns and traffic controls that are new to them. That street space you think you know? Don't count on it. Even if you can get there, you may well find it's covered by a new set of parking rules.

[Join Lena Sun, Eric Weiss and me -- The Post's transportation team -- for an online discussion about getting to and from the stadium. We'll be live at noon today. If you want to submit questions or comments early, here's a link to do that.]

By Robert Thomson  |  March 25, 2008; 8:16 AM ET
Categories:  Stadium  
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Thanks for the info on the RFK Access Road. Neither the Nationals nor DC United have EVER mentioned that road on their web sites for some reason. You'd think the local neighborhoods would want them to encourage people to go that way instead of through the streets.

Sounds to me like driving should be avoided when United are playing. Lot 7 is horrible for getting in and out, takes forever. Take note, in particular, of June 29. The Nationals play Baltimore and United play David Beckham's LA Galaxy. Last year the Beckham game was a sellout and it took over an hour to get out of Lot 7.

Posted by: Rich | March 25, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: washcycle | March 25, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Rich, I'm marking down June 29 on my calendar so I'll remember to warn people about the soccer and baseball confluence.

washcycle, that's a great map. And I don't mean to slight bikers. I did an entry yesterday on transit, the one here on driving, and plan to do one on biking and walking.

Even dividing it up this way, I still find I'm not getting to all the questions and all the angles that people are coming up with. For example, there are plenty of people who just want to know how to avoid the baseball traffic on their way home.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | March 25, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

The major problem I see, as it is all the time, is the SE freeway ramp to South Capitol street southbound. There is tremendous congestion there because the South Capitol street light has way too much priority even though almost no one uses it. Hopefully DDOT will fix this for the games and in general. I would go so far as to say that South Capitol should have a flashing red and SE freeway/3rd street should have a flashing yellow. Dr. G, do you know if DDOT is aware of this?

Posted by: Sivad | March 25, 2008 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't hold my breath on getting DDOT to re-time signals. Ever try driving near the White House? Pennsylvania Avenue and E Street get an awful lot of green time for being barricaded off! They even get turning arrows for those turning onto E and Pennsylvania! They should have minimal green time to let the one or 2 normal cars out, since anytime more than just a couple of vehicles come out its usually part of a motorcade which has the right of way regardless of signal indications anyway. So I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for DDOT to retime the signal there.

I wouldn't put in a flashing red for through traffic on South Capitol Street. First, that violates driver expectancy, since normally thru traffic doesn't have to yield to a ramp. Secondly, if the ramp traffic were free flowing, thru cars on South Capitol wouldn't even have a fighting chance during rush hour, especially if they needed the M street exit or to turn right soon after the ramp merge. But I do agree, more green time to the ramp and less to South Capitol should be a no-brainer.

Posted by: Woodley Park | March 26, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: On game evenings, expect to see traffic control officers and DC police at most of those South Capitol Street intersections, DDOT says. DDOT also will be watching the traffic to see if it needs to adjust the signal timings because of the game traffic. South of M Street, the South Capitol Street signals will be set to flashing. This is mostly to help commuter traffic get through, but every few minutes, the officers will stop traffic on South Capitol and let pedestrians and vehicles move east-west.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | March 26, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I really don't recommend driving to the games. I work across the street from the stadium and I have been parking on the street down here for over a year. The last two months new signs have gone up making it illegal to park just about everywhere. Much of the available street parking is now metered (to be at a hiked up rate during games) or simply made illegal. There are blocks and blocks of "Zone 6 only" parking as well, though there are barely any residences that live here. This is all new and all for because of the stadium. Any limited street parking that could have been available to the lucky few that drive the city has taken away. They want you to pay $35 to park or take the metro. It is ridiculous and it will be a huge problem. Take metro.

Posted by: don't drive | March 27, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Are these parking meters fees only to be used during game days? Therefore, parking any other time is free to the public?

Posted by: 8th Street Visitor | April 1, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

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