Officers Continue to Block Lane on Pennsylvania Ave.

By Stephen C. Fehr
Washington Post Staff Writer

Secret Senice officers continued to block a lane of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House yesterday, and the agency declined to say whether the move is temporary.

Without warning drivers or even the D.C. police, the Secret Service late Tuesday closed the lane closest to the White House--the right, east-bound lane of Pennsy]vania between the Old Executive Office Building and the Treasury Department head-quarters. The closure came as an advisory committee studying White House security recommended closing all six lanes of Pennsylvania between 15th and 17th streets NW.

At first, police barricades were erected, but those were removed yesterday. In their place, agents parked seven government vehicles along the two-block stretch, where parking is prohibited. A uniformed officer sat on a motorcycle on the sidewalk in front of the White House, and two Secret Service cruisers were parked in the median of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Secret Service spokesman David Adams would not say yesterday whether the lane closure was temporary or permanent. Keeping with the agency's policy of declining to discuss how the president is protected, Adams would not say what led to the decision.

"We don't like to show our cards, Adams said.

White House officials referred questions to the Secret Service, but an administration official who asked for anonymity told the Associated Press that the closing is temporary and does not necessarily mean the street will be closed permanently as the advisory committee suggested.

The panel's review of White House security was triggered by a rash of incidents last fall, including the crash of a small plane on the South Lawn and a shooting incident that involved a Colorado man on the sidewalk in front of the executive mansion. Now, with the bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City, officials are concerned about a truck bomb exploding outside the White House fence.

At least one organization representing commuters said yesterday that drivers should have been notified of the agency's decision and that traffic considerations must be weighed along with security.

"This is a big step to take precipitously," said Lon Anderson, spokesman for the American Automobile Association's Potomac chapter. "We already have enormous traffic congestion in the Washington area and this will have severe consequences for motorists."

More details emerged yesterday about the effect on Metrobus riders of closing the avenue. Metro officials said 10 bus routes and five lines operate along Pennsylvania between 15th and 17th streets. About 11,000 weekday riders travel on buses in front of the White House.

If any part of the street is closed, "there would be a major negative impact on Metrobus operations and on our passengers," Metro General Manager Lawrence G. Reuter said in a recent letter to a D.C. civic association.

Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park