Concerns Linger Over Nationals Parking

Posted January 11, 2008 at 5:16pm

The Washington Nationals are close to their goal of having 5,000 parking spaces available for Opening Day, but residents remain fearful that congestion will cram their neighborhoods and fans will park in front of their homes once the season begins at the end of March.

That was the message from a contentious D.C. Council Economic Development Committee hearing on Friday, during which councilmembers heard evidence of progress from Nationals officials but strong concern from residents.

“The lack of a clearly articulated traffic and parking plan continues to be of great concern to my community,” Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Andy Litsky testified.

Litsky and councilmembers complained that while the D.C. Department of Transportation and Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development are both involved, neither agency appears to be taking responsibility for the project.

“We’ve had a series of separate Cabinet- level agencies reporting to separate deputy mayors, coming together to address these challenges, sometimes quite reluctantly, over a period of three years,” Litsky said.

The result has been a failure to agree on a plan to protect residents from fans parking in residential areas.

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells (D) is holding a meeting today with ANC commissioners and the agencies involved.

Gregory McCarthy, ballpark district director for the Nationals, told the committee that the team has secured about 4,000 spaces adjacent to the ballpark. Those include 1,325 on-site spots mostly for season ticket holders and staff. The rest of the spots are in either temporary surface lots or private lots the team has persuaded property owners to open.

McCarthy said the team is close to an agreement with the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission that would allow it to use an additional 4,000 spots at RFK Stadium, with a shuttle bus taking fans to the new park. The parking and shuttle would be free.

The team is about to launch an “unprecedented” public relations blitz encouraging fans to use public transportation, McCarthy added, with a goal of getting more than half of fans to use Metro. He added that the ongoing Navy Yard Metro station expansion and refurbishment will be finished in time for the season.

McCarthy said every fan who purchases a ticket will be given a flier with public transit options. And season ticket holders who do drive will be given directions specific to their assigned lot, minimizing congestion.

But Litsky and other residents said they remain concerned they will have trouble finding parking at home on game nights. There is unlimited evening parking — for residents and non-residents — in the District.

The purpose of Wells’ meeting today is to develop an interim solution in time for Opening Day.

Wells introduced his pilot parking bill to address Capitol Hill parking on Jan. 8, but it is unlikely to be passed in time for the season.

The bill is designed to encourage shorter trips and the use of public transit. Parking meters would be added on side streets to protect residents.