Avenue's opening is urged
By Daniel F. Drummond
A House subcommittee on the District yesterday approved a nonbinding resolution urging President Bush to reopen Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.
The sense of the Congress resolution was introduced in April a month after the House Government Reform subcommittee's chairwoman, Rep. Constance A. Morella, held a hearing on the issue.
The resolution "continues to focus on the fact that we want Pennsylvania Avenue -- America's 'Main Street' -- to be reopened," Mrs. Morella, Maryland Republican, told The Washington Times. "We will not forget [about Pennsylvania Avenue] until it's reopened."
The Government Reform Committee, headed by Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, now must approve the resolution, which could come later this summer. The full House then would vote on the resolution.
The resolution calls for Mr. Bush to adopt a plan by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) "that permanently returns Pennsylvania Avenue to the use of residents, commuters, and visitors to the nation's capital," while protecting those who live and work in the White House.
The NCPC is looking into reopening the avenue as part of an interagency task force considering revamping security measures in the District. The task force is headed by the commission's former chairman, Richard L. Friedman.
The avenue was closed a month after a truck bomb demolished the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995, when President Clinton ordered the Treasury Department to close the 1,600-foot stretch of road at the behest of the Secret Service. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed this month for setting off the blast, which killed 168 persons.
Civic groups and members of Congress have lobbied to reopen the street, with the Federal City Council, a 1,700-member civic and business group, leading the charge in sponsoring a study by the Rand Corp. that shows how the road can be reopened while maintaining security.
The District has lost more than $2.7 million in parking-meter revenue and other revenue because of the road's closure, which also accounts for more than $500,00 in lost business at shops and stores around the area.
The street's closure also has disrupted the flow of more than 29,000 vehicles that travel along the east-west corridor but now must detour onto side streets often choked with traffic.
"Remember that when it was first closed, it was supposed to be temporary, but temporary has been for a long time," Mrs. Morella said, noting that "commuters tied up in traffic" and the unwanted perception of a "barricaded White House" is prevalent.
The Republican Party, Mrs. Morella added, also calls for the avenue's reopening.
Mrs. Morella said the NCPC report -- which is due by the end of next month -- should dovetail well with the Rand report and the resolution. In all three cases, she said, the goal is to reopen the people's house and maintaining security at the White House.
Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, said the avenue needs to be opened as soon as possible, adding that he suspects the majority of House members -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- will support the resolution.
"They have turned [the avenue] into a parking lot for government vehicles," Mr. Barr said of the Secret Service's efforts to keep the avenue closed. "It's atrocious looking, what they have done to it."
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
June 27, 2001