Hurdles and Hurrahs
Commuters Face Delays; Pedestrian Find Fun
The partial closing of Pennsylvania Avenue NW may mark a grim new
era in the way Americans think about security. But for legal
secretary Kimberly Windell, it means a daily race against the
clock: She pays $5 for every three minuted she is late to pick
up her daughter from day care.
Windell leaves her job at 15th and L streets NW about 5:30 p.m.
to pick up 5-year old Kerry in Alexandria. With Saturday's
permanent closing of Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th
streets, she worries that she may not be able to make it by 6
p.m., when her sitter imposes sanctions at an hourly rate of
Even in yesterday's light traffic, Windell said it took her an
extra 10 minutes to make the trip downtown, where Kerry and her
older sister tried out their roller blades in front of the White
House - one of the few forms of wheeled traffic still allowed on
that two-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue.
While Windell worried about baby-sitting, other commuters
recalculated their routes to work and the times they would need
to leave their homes in the morning. Alie Mohammed, an Afghani
immigrant who has sold ties near the White House for the last
four uears, said he planned to wake up 30 minutes earlier than
usual to get to his stand during morning rush hour.
Office of Personnel Management officials said yesterday that
about 210,000 federal workers would be on a "delayed arrival"
shedule and could arrive an hour late for work. "We're just
trying to be sensitive to the fact that people may have problems
sorting this out on the first day," said spokeswoman Janice
Linda Grant, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public
Works, said the only traffic-management plan in effect today will
be a parking ban on 15th and 17th streets NW. Other measures may
be taken as officials see the effects of the new traffic
patterns, she said.
For all its inconvenience, Windell had mixed feelings about the
street closing in front of the White House, "Maybe some good will
come of this," she said, "Everybody's having a great time."
And Kerry, her knees dirtied from a few falls, was grateful to
the "man in the big house," who she said closed the street "so
everyone with wheels can skate here."
"It's very agreeable," Monica Ipina, of Manassas, said in
Spanish. She sat with her husband and 3-year-old daughter,
Cristina, under the shade of a massive oak tree in Lafayette
Ria and Piet Vanderhulst, in town from the Netherlands for a
bicrobiology conference, were surprised to hear that Pennsylvania
Avenue had carried six lanes of traffic just 48 hours earlier.
"We didn't realize this was an unusual situation," Ria
Vanderhulst said. "I think it is a wise thing to do. There are
a lot of terrorists."
Yadullah Nasaullah, a Kurdish immigrant who snaps pictures of
tourists standing with cardboard stand-ups of Bill and Hillary
Rodham Clinton at 17th Street and Pennsylvania NW, said he was
pleased to see so many people out enjoying themselves.
"Whoever has done this plan has done very well," Nasaullah said.
"People are happy."
And Mike Rogers, a Tadoma Park resident who works as an analyst
at the Environmental Protection Agency, said the closing made his
trip into the District easier yesterday. He took the Metro with
his wife, Karen Sokal, and their infant daughter, Mikaela. They
strolled across Pennsylvania Avenue without waiting for a light
"I think this is a great idea. They should close more streets,"
Rogers said. "I think it's nice to be able to walk around, push
a baby carriage and ride a bike without being worried about
getting run over.
"Of course, I wish they would have come to this decision under
different circumstances and for different reasons," he added.
Rogers questioned whether the closing would deter terrorism. If
someone wants to hurt people, he said, there are plenty of other
sites where a car bomb would do serious damage. No one, for
example, has proposed closing the street in front of the EPA
building, he said.
Ellen Thomas, who has stationed herself across the street from
the White Houyse for the last 11 years as part of an anti-nuclear
vigil, said she worried that the street closing could be the
first step toward eventually excluding pedestrians from the area.
"Are they going to have metal detectors at the corners? Thomas
said. "If they stop with what they've done so far, the air is
cleaner, and people like dancing around in the middle of the
street. But what's next?"
On the Closed Avenue
Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park