Downtown traffic mess looms
By Brian Reilly
City traffic planners, at a loss to predict the severity of
backups spawned by the shutdown of Pennsylvania Avenue, are
suggesting that motorists accustomed to passing near the White
House brace for last-minute route changes.
And Steve Eldridge, whose job is to watch traffic as an
assistant operations director for the regional Metro Traffic
Control, said, "Quite honestly, we're geing to wait and see what
Likewise, in an attempt to offset a panic, the federal
government is allowing its workers in the District to take an
extra hour to get to work.
A D.C. Department of Public Works spokeswoman urged commuters to
choose altenate routes. But she said that for DPW to single
out a preferred roadway would be counterproductive.
"If you make a recommendation, you clog up that route." Linda
Metro buses that previously used Pennsylvania Avenue in front
of the White House will now veer off to H and I streets between
15th and17th streets, a Metro spokeswoman yesterday.
She said that will change as soon as all of hte detours become
permanent. Thats because H Street is to be converted to an
eastbound one-way street.
Police set up barricades yesterday that made H Street one-way
westbound -- that's right, west-bound. For the moment, I Street
remains one-way eastbound.
When all the changes are completed, the one-way directions on
both streets will be reversed, according to a public works plan.
Light Saturday traffic facilitated the rerouting of cars and
buses,yesterday but no one wants to risk forecasting tomorrow
morning's traffic conditions until they see how the shutdown
ripples throughout the city.
"I'd simply say leave early and listen to traffic reports." Mr.
Ms. Grant said the alternate east-west routes are Constitution
and Independence avenues south of the White House and H, I and K
streets to the north.
The most nettlesome traffic delays are expected on the heavily
traveled 15th and 17th street corridors.
In addition to the 25,000-cars passing by the White House every
day, roughly 30,000 motorists use 17th Street and 35,000 use 15th
Street. But those numbers drop "substantially" north of
Pennsylvania Avenue, Mr. Eldridge said yesterday. That means many
of the commuters eased the bottleneck by turning on to
Pennsylvania Avenue and New York Avenue on their way to work.
The six-lanes of Pennsylvania Avenue provided the first pressure
valve, or east-west roadway, for commuters coming from Northern
Virginia. The commuters will pick their favorite alternates and
adapt, but no one expects it to be easy.
"It's going to throw more traffic onto I Street, which really
can't handle it, and on K Street, which is already maxed out,"
Mr. Eldridge said.
The temporary obstacles on many streets have already complicated
The security barricades that closed off the affected streets
were up before yesterday's tourists could make one last drive
along Pennsylvania Avenue. The waist-high, concrete barriers
closed off the road at 17th Street and at Madison Place.
Even though administration officials said the section of road
from Madison Place to l5th Street would remain open, police cars
yesterday formed a barrier at 15th Street and Pennsylvania
Work crews also placed the concrete barriers along the H Street
and Madison Place boundaries of Lafayette Square to prevent
anyone from attempting to drive on pedestrian walkways to get to
the White House.
"In the long term, we hope to have barriers that are pleasing to
the eye, that have been approved by the various historical
societies and groups and so forth but these are just temporary
measures," said an administration official.
Administration officials said they now will wait for
recommendations from the National Capitol Planning Commission on
what to do with the portion of Pennsylvania Avenue directly in
front of the White House and how to best route traffic.
Officials anticipate creating a pedestrian mall in the space
while still leaving a lane or two in places for use by official
vehicles. The full road in between the Old Executive Office
Building and Blair House will remain paved, although its use will
A senior administration official said building a vehicle tunnel
underneath Pennsyvlania Avenue remains an option.
Another visible change in the White House complex was the
prohibition of metered parking on the 17th Street side of the New
Executive Office Building.
Though all the changes may sound daunting, Metro Traffic's Mr.
Eldridge says he is confident Washington commuters will adapt.
"Three or four weeks from now they may forget there was even a
road there," he said.
D.C. Council Chairman Dave Clarke, berating the federal
government for giving little notice of the shutdown, was not so
"It's going to be a very difficult situation for traffic down
here for a long period of time," he said.
J. Jennings Moss contributed to this report.
THE WASHlNGTON TlMES
SAFE, SECURE... AND GRlDLOCKED
The White House announced yesterday plans to make the area
surrounding 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue more secure. Whlle that
might make President Cllnton and America's most famous address
safer, it wlll also make driving through one of the city's most
traveled areas more difficult. The most significant change went
into effect yesterday morning: the closing of two blocks of
Pennsylvania Avenue to all but pedestrian traffic.
Other Immediate changes:
Closing a small segment of State Place and South Executive
Avenue SW, behind the White House. That change went into effect
Banning parking on 15th and 17th streets between Constitution
Avenue and K Street. The ban will be effective starting 5 a.m.
Changes that will occur soon:
Making I Street one way westbound between New York and Pennsylvania avenues.
Making H Street one way eastbound between Pennsylvania and New
Banning parking on both H and I streets once the one-way
designations are finalized.
Making 15th Street between New York Avenue and K Street one way
Source: D.C Department of Public Works
Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park