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Memorial, Roosevelt Bridges Closed; Transit Crowded

The shutdown of the bridges as scheduled this morning created traffic backups elsewhere, including the Key Bridge, as thousands of people headed toward this afternoon's opening ceremony and concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Metro ridership was heavy, and so was pedestrian traffic around the Mall, especially near the security checkpoints.

Pedestrians could and did use the Roosevelt Bridge and it was open to outbound traffic, but the Memorial Bridge was completely shut down. See Eric M. Weiss's story about the Sunday traffic plan.

Post staff writer Tom Jackman reported that the Key Bridge was jammed. Meanwhile, the Roosevelt's lanes were car-free. Not only were the inbound lanes closed, but also, it was tough for cars to reach the outbound ramps.

The slow, steady stream of pedestrians on the Roosevelt Bridge, which leads toward the Lincoln Memorial, reported easy parking in Rosslyn.

The Roosevelt, not a particularly attractive bridge, has some of the best Potomac views. Jackman said pedestrians were taking a rare opportunity to walk in the lanes closed to traffic and to take photos without fear of being run over.

"How cool is this? We're walking into the city," said Gaylen Cragin, 27, of Clarendon. Her group, like many others, planned to walk back after the concert and either take Metro or a cab home.

By 1:20 p.m., Jackman said, the pedestrian flow had increased. Many said they would be making the trek again on Tuesday for the inauguration.

All around downtown Washington today, pedestrians encountered metal fencing along streets, even far from the Mall, which in some spots impede walking. At the Mall, staff writer Michael Birnbaum reported at 1 p.m. that he saw long slow lines at the security checkpoint at the north end of the World War II Memorial. At 1:40 p.m., said staff writer Mary Beth Sheridan, hundreds of people were backed up to pass through a slow moving checkpoint at 17th Street and Independence Avenue

Pedestrian traffic on 17th Street NW was very heavy, spilling into the street outside the Executive Office Building, reported editor Leonard Bernstein. Police on motorcycles and National Guardsmen herded the crowd back onto the sidewalk.

Post reporters saw the inbound rush building on Metrorail at about 11 a.m., and that's certain to grow the closer we get to the 2:30 p.m. scheduled start of the show.

Over at RFK Stadium, Birnbaum saw dozens of buses idling in the parking lots, waiting to ferry people for free to the show. At 11:20 a.m., he said, they far outnumbered the cars parked there. In fact, the seagulls outnumbered the parked cars. Maybe because of the $15 charge to park.

One Louisiana couple told him they thought the shuttles had been underpublicized. "Online there wasn't much information" about the parking and the shuttles, said Beverly Jordan, 46, an accounting executive from West Monroe, La. She heard about the buses on the radio this morning and thought it was a good choice since she and her husband didn't know the city very well.

Some others drove right into the middle of the city. Corey Brooks, 34, told Sheridan that he drove his family from his Baltimore home to Washington without a problem. He parked at a garage on F Street NW and walked about six blocks to the Mall. "There was a line two blocks long to get into the garage," he said. "But we made it!"

Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein told Lena Sun, The Post's transit reporter, that the busiest Metrorail entry points this morning were the stations at ends of the lines, such as Shady Grove on the Red Line in Montgomery County and Vienna on the Orange Line in Fairfax County.

Metro officials told Sun that there was a good chance that ridership would set a Sunday record. They expect ridership to be similar to July 4th events, when typically 500,000 are riding the trains. The busiest exit stations were Smithsonian, Foggy Bottom and Metro Center.

John Kelly, aboard an S2 Metrobus coming down 16th Street NW at 1:30 p.m., said by the time the bus reached Park Road NW it was full, cramming room only. Traffic on 16th Street was heavy but moving.

At 11 a.m., Birnbaum had reported that a Blue Line train at L'Enfant Plaza came in completely full and the crowd spilled out when the doors opened.

Sheridan said all the seats were taken on a Red Line train leaving Union Station heading downtown. Sun said at 10:40 a.m. that her inbound Red Line train was full by the time it got to Tenleytown. At 11:05, she said, she got off the train at Farragut North and saw a packed train on the opposite platform.

Shortly before, at Metro Center, she saw a Glenmont-bound train empty quite a bit as people apparently thought they had to switch to a Blue or Orange Line train to get closer to the Mall. (Don't do that. Transfering trains just to get a few blocks closer to the Mall isn't worth it with the crowds likely today and Tuesday. Get out and walk.)

Birnbaum talked to Susan Ditto, a Woodley Park resident who took the Red Line to see the show. She said the transit crowd wasn't as bad as she expected. "It's worse during rush hour on a weekday," she said. She plans to return for the inauuguration on Tuesday, and wasn't too worried about the trip.

"I'm actually more concerned about Woodley Park," she said, "because security is tight there" with two Inaugural balls in the area.

Birnbaum had reported at 10:36 a.m. that a Branch Avenue-bound Green Line train was stuck at Columbia Heights Station, because of a problem with the doors, and the passengers had to get off. Metro said to expect temporarily delays on the Green and Yellow in the direction of Branch Avenue and Huntington.

These door problems are way too common on Metro trains and could be one of our big problems during the crowding on Tuesday.

The transit ridership built up quickly this morning. At about 10 a.m., Jackman had said there was ample parking at that point at the Orange Line's Vienna Station, and traffic was flowing freely on Interstate 66. Sun had said that at 10:22 a.m., there were many parking spaces open at the Red Line's Grosvenor Station. She saw some groups of people waiting on the downtown platform. The six-car train that arrived for them had plenty of room.

By Robert Thomson  |  January 18, 2009; 10:32 AM ET
Categories:  Inauguration  
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