By Jim DresbachMay 10, 2013
WASHINGTON D.C. - Though tucked safely on Greenleaf Point between the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, Fort Lesley J. McNair on Washington D.C.'s southwest side, the third oldest Army installation, gets its share of vehicular traffic. With Nationals Park a tape-measure home run away from McNair, and the base being one of the epicenters for prime District firework watching, parking is in high demand during the spring cherry blossom festival and Independence Day pyrotechnic celebrations.
According to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall's Directorate of Emergency Services, the Fort McNair portion of the joint base contains a total of 1,899 parking spots. Six hundred ninety of those spaces are on the north end of McNair and 1,209 are on the south end. During a normal work day, enough spots are available for National Defense University students and staff, Officer Club visitors, base employees and residents, but normal Mondays through Fridays can be out of the ordinary. On atypical work days when a change in command occurs or a cabinet-level official visits NDU, parking and traffic can become problematic.
"The traffic that we do get impacted with is during special events; especially, if they're at Lincoln Hall," JBM-HH DES Traffic Investigation Chief Lt. Ron Foster said. "Those [special events] take up all the parking at Lincoln Hall, which holds about 300 cars. So when that happens, it affects the students [at National Defense University] as well as the employees."
Foster mentioned that compared to sections of the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia and Maryland, the state of available parking at McNair is sound and secure but one area needs to be improved by commuters who become parkers.
"The problem we have - not only at McNair but at most installations - [is that] the average person doesn't want to park a thousand feet away from their place of employment," Foster said. "That right there is part of the problem."
Some drivers have taken the law into their own hands and illegally parked on the Fort Myer, Henderson Hall or Fort McNair portions of the base in order to cut a few feet off their walks to their offices or places of employment. The DES reemphasized that legal joint base parking is only permitted within parking spaces that are outlined in white paint. This provision is stated in the JBM-HH Uniform Parking Policy (regulation 190-15) chapter 2, paragraph 40. Parallel parking along unmarked curbs is deemed illegal and violators will be ticketed and fined.
During spring and summer festivals, McNair's parking can fill quickly while parking for Nationals games at McNair totals a dozen to two dozen vehicles. Foster also made note that in order to park on Fort McNair for a National's home game, commuters must be an active duty service member or a Department of Defense employee.
"We established that [policy] when the stadium first opened," Foster said. "That way, we don't have just anybody coming off the street and parking on McNair to go to the baseball game." If authorized visitors plan to sightsee the southwest riverfront and park at McNair, Foster offered a number of tips.
"If you're going to park here, do it during the day," he said. "The activity outside of the gate, we really can't control. After dark, you really don't want to be walking around in the neighborhood. That's where we have the biggest issues - outside of the fence line."