Downtown Washington is on lockdown for the inauguration

A security fence at the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 12, 2021.


By LUZ LAZO | The Washington Post | Published: January 15, 2021

WASHINGTON — For those who want to witness the moment Joseph R. Biden Jr. is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, your best bet is to watch from home.

Federal and local officials are discouraging people from traveling to the nation's capital Wednesday for Biden's inauguration or for any other nonessential business.

In fact, it will be close to impossible to make it to the National Mall this week. The city is physically on lockdown until after the inauguration. Barricades and fences are up, creating a restricted zone to keep out vehicular and pedestrian traffic from a wide strip of downtown and monumental Washington. Nearby subway stations are closed. Major routes and bridges, including the Arlington Memorial Bridge and Rock Creek Parkway, are shut down. And a law enforcement army, including more than 20,000 National Guard troops, is enforcing the perimeter.

A raging pandemic is forcing most inaugural events online and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which left five people dead, is prompting heightened security.

The restrictions went into effect well before Wednesday's inauguration. The perimeter for parking prohibitions and street closures is larger than normal and will be in effect for a longer period. Authorities are asking people to stay away as far-right groups indicated plans to protest at state capitals across the country, as well as in the District of Columbia.

The road closures are likely to create traffic backups for drivers trying to enter the city from the George Washington Memorial Parkway and interstates 66 and 395. Drivers should avoid the area altogether and find alternate routes to get around a perimeter that extends several blocks.

The numerous road closures and parking restrictions affect streets around Capitol Hill, the Lincoln Memorial, Union Station, the Mall and the White House. Many of the restrictions began Tuesday and are expected to remain in place until Thursday after the inauguration.

"We know this is very inconvenient for our residents and businesses. I want to say thank you for your cooperation and flexibility," D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D, said. "Clearly we are in unchartered waters."


Biden's inauguration will be scaled down because of health concerns posed by the pandemic and the security concerns stemming from the Capitol attack.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will take the oath of office at noon Wednesday in the west front of the Capitol. Tickets to the ceremony are limited, inaugural balls have been canceled and the traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue will be virtual.

Americans can watch the inaugural events at home. Actor Tom Hanks will host a 90-minute prime time TV special with performers such as Justin Timberlake, Jon Bon Jovi, Demi Lovato and Ant Clemons. Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem and Jennifer Lopez will perform.


If you thought transit is a better option to get around downtown for the inauguration, this time it's not. Buses and trains are skipping the secure zone.

Metro subway. Thirteen stations are closed because of security concerns starting Friday and through Thursday. They are: Archives, Arlington Cemetery, Capitol South, Farragut North, Farragut West, Federal Center SW, Federal Triangle, Gallery Place, Judiciary Square, McPherson Square, Metro Center, Smithsonian and Union Station.

The rail system will operate from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. on the weekdays, including on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But trains will run on a Saturday schedule — every 12 to 15 minutes on the Red Line and every 15 to 20 minutes on other lines.

Metrobus. The bus system will operate on a regular schedule, except on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Inauguration Day, when they will follow Saturday frequencies. Expect detours around the inauguration security perimeter.

About 25 bus lines are affected by the road closures and will be detoured. Buses that cross the National Mall will turn around at the security perimeters. Detours began Friday and will continue until Thursday. Metro said detours could change and urged anyone who needs to travel to plan ahead and allow additional travel time.

MetroAccess. The paratransit service has canceled trips for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Inauguration Day. Service will not be available to destinations within the secured area in downtown and customers traveling elsewhere in the city should expect delays.

Capital Bikeshare. All stations around the Mall, Capitol Hill and Union Station are closed through the Inauguration.

The bottom line, officials say: Don't go to downtown unless you have to. Essential workers who need to be within the secured zone will be screened and asked to show proof.


Vehicle traffic was banned from parts of downtown starting Tuesday, with more closures in effect Friday and in effect until after the inauguration.

The U.S. Secret Service on Thursday announced a lengthy list of street closures and parking restrictions beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday and remaining until Thursday.

A large area, designated a Red Zone and covering the vicinity of the White House, Mall and the Capitol, is closed to traffic. Only authorized vehicles are allowed to get past barricades, officials said. Similar restrictions are in place near the Lincoln Memorial.

Other areas are restricted to businesses or residents, who have to go through National Guard checkpoints.

The Secret Service has also closed access to parking garages and loading docks near the White House. Delivery trucks are being routed to an off-site screening facility, city leaders said.