Pedestrians enjoy the absence of cars
By Arlo Wagner
Protecting the president will likely cause grumbling tomorrow,
but yesterday, pedestrians around the White House area now closed
to motor vehicle traffic were loving it.
Tomorrow will mean detours and futile searches for alternate
parking places on 1Sth and 17th streets. Closed permanently are
two blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue, a busy east-west thoroughfare
in addition to being the home address of the president. Federal
workers will even get an extra hour to get to work.
But on a sunny spring Saturday, the city belongs to tourists
from near and far. Most of those interviewed yesterday seemed to
understand the need for the change that turned over two blocks of
America's Main Street to pedestrians - even if some local
residents foresee only headaches ahead.
"I love it. They should do this with all the streets," said
Julie Herman, 28, a journalism student at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, as she sauntered along the double yellow
line of Pennsylvania Avenue.
"It's ironic that it took fear to do what should have been
planned," Miss Herman said. "Now, they ought to put a median in
here and fill it with flowers."
Both she and her companion, Scott Littlehale, 28, a North
Carolina political science graduate student, previously have
lived and worked in the District. They recognized the traffic
difficulties to be encountered tomorrow but reasoned that
commuters would adjust.
James Boone, 24, a part-time security guard in a building at the
corner of I and 17th streets NW, was ltss than happy about the
impending parking and traffic problems.
As a staff sergeant stationed at Fort Myer, time is important as
he comes into his second job in the center of the city.
"That's not good," Sgt. Boone said. "I think there should be
around the White House maximum security, but they should make
some accommodations for people who have to work here."
D.C. Council President David Clarke expressed the same feelings.
He was glad that pedestrians and tourists still can see the White
House grounds up close, but he wondered about how a city with
big financial problems will foot Uncle Sam's bill.
"We are in a difficult financial time," Mr. Clarke said. "I hope
that my citizens are not going to be adversely affected in terms
of jobs and costs."
He said he understood the federal government would pay police
overtime during the adjustment to the new traffic patterns, but
he wondered about the costs for street and other infrastructure
"We're used to being the national city. Things happen here that
don't happen at other cities," Mr. Clarke said. "We accommodate
that [the pomp and circumstance of visiting dignitaries] but
we can only go so far."
Walking four blocks to see the White House didn't bother Quirino
Paniecia, 55, a Binghamton, N.Y., carpenter.
"I want to see the White House. As long as you can walk to it, I
don't mind," Mr. Paniecia said. "I'm in favor for them to close
the road to cars. They got a lot of crazy people out there."
Already, tourists are finding themselves forced to cope.
Three women from Boston who wanted to see the White House
drove around and around without much luck until finally they
found parking on 17th Street NW near a newly posted sign that
read: "Emergency, No Parking, 5 a.m. May 22 until furtber
They were about to hail a taxi until a passerby pointed out that
they were only two blocks from the White House.
In-line skaters quickly took advantage of the newly created
broad arena in front of the White House.
In long strides, they swooped up and down, back and forth.
"It's great," said Aaron Mindel, 25, an association employee who
lives near Dupont Circle. "It's great for Rollerblading and
pedestrians -- but the traffic...?"
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park