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Prepare For Rare Traffic Event Thursday

Thursday morning's rush will be highly unusual, even for a region that takes a twisted pride in standing among the national leaders in traffic and transit congestion.

My concern is focused on events in Southeast Washington, but the impact on drivers and transit users will ripple out from there.

Tens of thousands of people will be trying to reach Nationals Park for the papal mass. Tens of thousands of drivers and Metro riders will be trying to get around them to reach their workplaces.

Planning Points
The Douglass Bridge and part of South Capitol Street near Nationals Park will be closed for security and logistics throughout the morning commute. The District Department of Transportation advises commuters to do what they did last summer when the bridge was shut for reconstruction.

The main detour for this major commuter route is the 11th Street Bridge. Alternative approaches from the east are East Capitol Street, Benning Road and New York Avenue. If you're heading for Virginia, consider the Wilson Bridge for this one morrning.

Veteran drivers, the resulting congestion probably will remind you of the first day of last summer's bridge shutdown. Many people will not have gotten the word, despite the recent publicity campaign. You'll see confused commuters and some trick driving.

If I'm right about that, Interstate 295 and the Suitland Parkway will likely be jammed. Keep right on both roadways for the approach to the 11th Street Bridge. Many drivers who learn about the congestion will bail out and fill your backup route. Many charter buses will be heading for the RFK Stadium lots to drop off worshipers taking shuttles to Nationals Park.

Taking Metrorail is a good idea, but adjust for these factors: Absolutely everybody in local transportation circles has been advising the crowd bound for Nationals Park to take Metro. Worshipers are coming from across the nation.

Spaces at the normally crowded parking garages and lots are likely to be gone extra early. The Green Line is the transit alternative for Douglass Bridge commuters, but it's also the route to Navy Yard Station, nearest Nationals Park.

On the plus side, Metro will be operating at peak service from the 5 a.m. opening till 7 p.m. Worshipers have been told to reach the stadium before 8:30 a.m., to clear security and get seated for the 10 a.m. to noon mass.

By Robert Thomson  |  April 16, 2008; 12:58 PM ET
Categories:  Events  
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