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 changes.

"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 notice."

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...?"

Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park