Mass transit will provide the best option for Washington Nationals fans traveling from the Maryland suburbs to RFK Stadium, say state and District of Columbia transportation officials, who are uncertain how much stress baseball fans might add to busy area roads.
Though fans from Anne Arundel and Howard counties can drive fairly direct routes to the stadium, they may find highways clogged by afternoon commuter traffic when traveling to evening games. They may also encounter a lack of parking at the stadium, which seats about 45,000 for baseball games and offers spots for about 10,000 vehicles.
"We've been encouraging people to use mass transit because parking around the stadium will be tight, and the police are going to crack down on anyone who parks in the neighborhoods," said Steven Taubenkibel, spokesman for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro.
Commuters can park at Metro's new Largo Town Center station (on the Blue line) or the New Carrolton station (on the Orange line) and ride trains directly to RFK. The maximum one-way fare is $2.25 from New Carrolton and $2.30 from Largo Town Center. Metro officials said there will be plenty of late trains running to the stations.
Taubenkibel added that rail travelers must purchase a SmarTrip card with enough money on it to get them to and from the stadium and out of the parking lots at Largo and New Carrolton.
This will allow riders to avoid long lines for passes at Stadium-Armory after games and qualify for discounted parking lot rates; cards can be purchased online at www.wmata.com or at Metro sales offices. Trains run to the Stadium-Armory Station on the Blue and Orange lines.
Parking at the stations is free on the weekend.
Taubenkibel said the transit authority will have extra staffers at those stations and at the stadium to help inexperienced Metro travelers. The workers will be wearing red Nationals caps and T-shirts reading, "Thanks for taking us out to the ballgame."
"It's going to be a feeling out and learning process," Taubenkibel said. "This is going to be a new experience for a lot of people, and the best thing we can do is encourage people to plan ahead, especially for weekday games."
RFK has accommodated larger crowds for concerts and Redskins games, but those events usually occurred on weekends, not during the city's formidable rush hour.
For those who opt to drive to the stadium, Anne Arundel County drivers have a straighter shot to RFK than Howard County drivers. From Annapolis, they can take Route 50 South to Route 201 South, then merge onto Interstate 295 and exit at East Capitol Street to the stadium.
From the heart of Annapolis, the trip should take 38 minutes, according to Mapquest, a Web site that provides driving directions.
Fans traveling from western Anne Arundel can hop onto the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, which turns into I-295 in Washington, then connects to East Capitol Street.
Howard County drivers can take either Interstates 95 and 495 or Route 100 to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Mapquest projects the nonrush-hour drive time at 39 minutes.
Maryland highway officials say they don't expect baseball traffic to cause major delays. Most fans coming from Maryland will be driving against the usual flow of afternoon traffic, said David Buck, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration.
"We really expect it to be a nonissue for us," Buck said. "Even the larger events at RFK have produced a very, very minimal effect on our highway system."
Buck said highway officials also hope many fans will go to Nationals games straight from their jobs in the District.
Parking lots at RFK are located directly around the stadium off Independence Avenue and East Capitol Street. District police say they will tow cars that don't have residential parking permits and are parked illegally in nearby neighborhoods.
The New Carrolton station, located just off Route 50 and the Capital Beltway, is probably the most convenient transit stop for most Anne Arundel and Howard drivers, officials said.
According to the transit Web site, a rail trip from New Carrolton to RFK should last about 15 minutes.