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Meeting the Jan. 20 Challenge in Virginia

Now that we have so much information to work with concerning travel on Inauguration Day, let's start breaking it down so we can figure out how you'll get where you're going. Since the travel task is likely to be most difficult in Virginia, we should start in the Commonwealth and look at Maryland and the District separately.

The Potomac River hasn't been such an obstacle to reaching Washington since Washington was alive. Cars will be barred from the Virginia-D.C. bridges for much of Inauguration Day. Drivers would have to swing over to the Wilson and Legion bridges and enter the District from Maryland.

Here's a link to The Post transportation map.

This puts very heavy pressure on transit services between Virginia and Washington. The Orange Line will be particularly stressed. Two developments this week are likely to affect Orange Line travel:

-- Metro announced that a relative handful of charter buses would be parking at the stations on Jan. 20, not the earlier estimate of more than 1,000. That may reduce the ridership from the outer stations somewhat, though it would mean more individual vehicles will be in the mix to create congestion at the station parking areas.

-- To ease crowding at the inner stations, the transit authority announced Thursday that it would use special bus corridors, with service about every 10 minutes, to help riders reach the District. See Lena Sun's story in today's Post. And here's a Post map showing the bus corridors.

Beth Francis, the marketing chief of Fairfax County's Transportation Department, told Lena that the Fairfax Connector will run extra bus service on routes to five Metro stations: West Falls Church and Dunn Loring-Merrifield on the Orange Line; Franconia and Van Dorn Street on the Blue Line; and Huntington on the Yellow Line. The remaining Fairfax Connector routes will run enhanced Saturday service, meaning Saturday schedules but with more bus trips.

If you live in Arlington or Alexandria, and if the weather turns out to be decent, consider walking or biking into the District. There's plenty of advice online to help you plan. has a special page with advice on going car-free to the inauguration. (And it's helpful for commuters, just trying to get to work on Jan. 20.)

Look here on the CommuterPageBlog for some specific ideas about busing and walking. This page discusses The Walk on Washington and has additional good links. This page is about biking.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association announced this week that there will be two free bike valet stations available near the Mall on Jan. 20.

Look at The Post's Commuter page this Sunday (page 2 of the Metro section) for a walker's guide to the inauguration.

Mark Roeber, spokesman for the Virginia Railway Express told me this on Wednesday about the Inauguration Day reserved train service:

-- Nearly half the tickets had been sold; that is, about 4,200 tickets for morning trains and 4,200 for the evening service.
-- Most trains still had seats available, but several Fredericksburg trains were more crowded than others.
-- VRE's monthly ticket holders will be allowed to ride, but not just by showing their monthly tickets. They must have their employers verify that they must work that day. Only then will VRE issue a special ticket for them to use on Jan. 20.

"We anticipate that we'll receive even more interest in riding to the Inaugural since getting there [by car] will literally be impossible," Roeber said in an e-mail.

Here's a link to the VRE page on Inauguration Day service.

By Robert Thomson  |  January 9, 2009; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  Inauguration  
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Next: Warning: Pants-less Agitators to Storm Metro Saturday


Dr. Gridlock -

Thanks for all the great info (I'm following all this closely, and I missed the part about shuttle buses somehow).

But you're missing a larger point: what about people who will still have to go to work at jobs inside the Beltway along 66 and 395? Have VDOT or the various police/sherriff's departments done anything to help mitigate the traffic that's going to flow onto the ground level roads because of these closures?

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | January 9, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Is the 38B (or for that matter, the other routes) making all its usual stops in Virginia?

Also, Metro's inauguration guide says the 38B and 3E will be stopping at 22nd and Virginia Av. The map in today's paper indicates that the 38B and 3B,E,Y will stop at 23rd and Constitution. Do you know which is correct?

Posted by: hoorah | January 9, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

What about people who use hospitals inside DC? There are pregnant women in VA who use DC hospitals, but will now have to change doctors and hospitals or pay more for early c-sections because if they want to cross a bridge, they obviously would only be going to the national mall. No way would anybody want to go somewhere on rock creek drive canald drive or go from VA to anacostia or back.

Posted by: hesaid | January 9, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Dr. G - are bridges going to be open outbound for DC residents who want to get out during the day or need to reverse commute?

Also -- what's the rationale for closing Chain Bridge? What pedestrian is going to walk from Chain Br to the mall???

Posted by: chris4096 | January 9, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

On my drive into DC this morning (on Washington St. through Alexandria) I noticed that temporary metal fencing is set up in the median of the GW Parkway. It starts at the intersection of the GW Parkway and Slaters Lane and extends north, nearly to the turnoff for the marina.

It must be related to the inauguration closures, but I thought the GW Parkway between National Airport and Alexandria wasn't going to be closed.

Posted by: ScottM5 | January 9, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

You suggest that Alexandria and Arlington residents consider walking in, but with the closing of the 14th St. Bridge to pedestrians and bikes this option is not feasible for many.

Posted by: wa_hoo | January 9, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock:

Why is Chain Bridge closed? Any reason why persons can't use that to get to points in northern NW DC? Does the USSS director live up there and not want the cut-through traffic?

Posted by: reston75 | January 9, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Couple of general things in response to comments and then a couple of specifics.

Since early December, I've been urging people to think of Jan. 20 the same way they would a date on which a blizzard has been forecast. That's how difficult it's likely to be to get around. Law enforcement and the transportation departments are going to deal with Jan. 20 issues the same way they would with blizzard issues -- they're going to deal with the biggest problems first. Many of us are going to have to solve our own individual problems. I'm not saying I like that any better than you do. I'm saying that's the way we've got to think about it.

Many people are sending me e-mails detailing their specific concerns about getting around on Jan. 20, and I'm trying to respond with specific suggestions. I'm at

On this, I hear you loud and clear: Most of the planning involves how to get hundreds of thousands of people to and from inauguration events. But for many people, this is not a holiday. They're looking to get to work, or to a medical appointment, or to the airport.

Some specifics: The bridge restrictions are for inbound traffic. Private vehicles can drive outbound all day, though I'd strongly advise against that. The traffic is likely to be horrible.

The Memorial Bridge roadway is open to pedestrians only, and as wa hoo pointed out in a comment, that's not close to many residences.

But the pedestrian and bike paths on the other bridges will be open. The restrictions apply to the roadways.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | January 9, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: ... And about the Metrobus routes, the map in today's Post is based on what the transit authority told us on Thursday, not on the Metro inauguration guide printed earlier. The brochure's bus guide says "Locations and services subject to change as events warrant." That will be true right up through Jan. 20. Almost certainly, there will be last-minute changes in the street closure plan.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | January 9, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

You suggest that Alexandria and Arlington residents consider walking in, but with the closing of the 14th St. Bridge to pedestrians and bikes this option is not feasible for many.

What about the Memorial Bridge - nice wide sidewalks good for walking/biking.

Posted by: Axel2 | January 9, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Re: "What about people who use hospitals inside DC?"

Call an ambulance.

Posted by: reston75 | January 9, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for all of the information you are providing - this is such a great resource! I plan to be in Fairfax for the weekend and really don't know what to expect. Is it your sense that we can expect heavy traffic in areas of Fairfax that are NOT near train and bus stops (i.e., will it be heavy on routes 236, 50, and 29)?

Posted by: informedtraveller | January 9, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I've heard a lot about the anticipated traffic of people using Metro the day before and day of innauguration, but not much about the night after and the next day.

I'm wondering if I should plan on Metro experiencing extremely crowded conditions Tuesday night and Wednesday morning (and Wednesday PM rush hour for that matter) - I figure all of those visitors will take some time to return to their hometowns.

Posted by: informedtraveller | January 9, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I don't ride, but how is a "monthly ticket" on VRE not good on one day of the month? Why should those ticket holders have to be using it for work, when on any other day they could use their monthly ticket for any purpose, including work?

Posted by: ah___ | January 9, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

The Orange Line can't even handle a normal rush hour. Trains were stuffed to the gills last week just with holiday visitors/tourists. For authorities to tell everyone to just take transit is crazy. Metro is not going to be able to handle it.

Posted by: lgp2 | January 9, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I would like to know if anyone is noting a problem that wasn't started with the Inauguration festivities, but has been exacerbated by it. And that is the "traffic directors" in the Golden Triangle. They stand in the middle of various intersections downtown (like K st and 17th) and don't really know what they are doing when they direct traffic. Usually they make more of a mess than if drivers just followed the lights, they add confusion, and seem to get a thrill from just blowing their whistles as drivers, thus not letting them get through the green light! Are they even trained in what they do, because frequently there are 2 or more in an intersection and they are giving conflicting instructions!

Posted by: DIMB | January 9, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock - I live in S. Arlington near the Pentagon City Mall. Will it be possible to walk through Arlington Cemetary, entering over by Columbia Pike, to get to the Memorial Bridge? Thanks!

Posted by: algae12 | January 9, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

WABA is saying that the Post is wrong. The 14th Street Bridge will be open to bikes and pedestrians.

Posted by: cranor | January 9, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Dr. G.,

Do you have anything to say about this plan:

Looks like Virginia residents are getting screwed over even more. People who work in Arlington/Alexandria will be affected by round the clock HOV restrictions on I-66 and I-95/395 as well.

Posted by: thetan | January 9, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Yes, as thetan said in the comment above, I do think Virginians are getting the worst of this deal, whether they will be going to the inauguration or just going to work on Jan. 20.

Forget the crowd estimates, the roadblocks themselves guarantee widespread congestion. I'd add lots of time for getting to anywhere inside the Beltway in Virginia on the 20th. Getting to National Airport will be a particular problem. We'll talk a lot more about this during the coming week.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | January 11, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

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