Bridge closings, packed Metro stops and security checks await travelers and D.C. residents alike hoping to catch a glimpse of Inauguration Day festivities.

Beginning at 3 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 20, all bridges into the capital from Virginia will be closed to vehicle traffic for security reasons according to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Web site. A large area of downtown D.C. and the business district will also be restricted to essential vehicles.

The Key, 14th Street, Roosevelt and Memorial Bridges will all be restricted to pedestrian and authorized bus traffic, according to the Virginia DOT’s Web site. Vehicle travelers from Virginia will have to pass through Maryland highways on their way to the inauguration.

The department has also announced the closure of inbound Interstate 66 and Interstate 395 to nonemergency vehicles.

“We urge motorists – whether traveling by bus, van or car – to plan their route well in advance,” said Steven Flaherty, the superintendent of the Virginia State Police.

The Secret Service stated in a press release that over three square miles of downtown D.C. would also be restricted to vehicle traffic on Jan. 20. The roads in the business district and adjoining government offices and buildings near the National Mall will be closed until late afternoon on Jan. 21.

The extensive closings, which The Washington Post termed “unprecedented” have raised their own set of safety concerns.

“I think the last time the bridges were closed like this, Lincoln was president and was worried about an invasion by General Lee,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson Lon Anderson said in an NBC interview.

“[The closings are] a huge problem when you consider that there are a lot of workers in the city, especially hospitality and security [staff],” Anderson said.

In a Jan. 7 press conference, with the Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, the Virginia DOT said it would maintain a sophisticated command center in northern Virginia to handle the expected crowds and monitor traffic in real time on Inauguration Day. However, DOT officials reiterated that the public should avoid the roadways as much as possible and pursue other options.

The Office of Transportation Management at Georgetown has announced that the Georgetown University Transportation Shuttles will run on a limited basis on Jan. 19th and 20th to Rosslyn and Dupont Circle. Service on Inauguration Day will begin at 4 a.m. and end at 11:45 p.m.

One alternative, the Metro system, is expecting unprecedented and potentially dangerous crowds, according to Metro General Manager, John Catoe.

“We think we will far surpass our highest ridership day,” Catoe said.

Catoe said that those traveling into D.C. should try to use the farthest possible Metro stop from D.C. because stations close to the capital are expected to be packed. Nevertheless, he said he anticipates that problems could develop as the Metro copes with unprecedented traffic.

“Something will happen on [Jan.] 20th,” Catoe said in a meeting with the Metro Riders Advisory Committee. “We cannot operate that many trains and not have something happen.”

The Metro will open at 5 a.m. on Jan. 19 and close at 2 a.m. on Jan. 20. After completing maintenance work, the Metro will open again at 4 a.m. on Inauguration Day and continue operating until 2 a.m. the next morning.

The increased traffic and security measures will also make attending the inauguration difficult for the disabled and senior citizens.

“Although Metrobus and Metrorail are fully accessible, and Metro is making every effort to ensure that this historic event is accessible to as many people as possible, security and environmental restrictions will make travel especially challenging for people with disabilities and senior citizens,” said Christian T. Kent, Metro’s Assistant General Manager of Access Services in a Jan. 12 press release.

According to the press release, most Metro escalators will be disabled for crowd safety, limiting wheelchair access in the metro.

Despite the hurdles, Virginia transportation officials emphasize the importance of attending the inauguration.

“On January 20th, we will celebrate a milestone in the history of our nation.” Flaherty said. “It’s important that people be a part of this event, but it’s important that we plan wisely, and we plan practically, and we plan safely.”

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