Gridlock predicted near White House
Drivers scout alternatives to Pennsylvania Avenue
John Martin scouted the route to work yesterday to figure out
what his commute will be like this morning, the first since
Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed for
security reasons. He didn't like what he saw.
"It's going to be crazy in the morning" said Mr. Martin, 36, as
he waited several minutes in his 1970 Volkswagen "bug" yesterday
to make the turn from E Street onto 15th Street NW.
"I came by to see what they've done before I start out in the
morning" he said. "I can see it will be a long wait."
He is not the only one who is anxious to see how the morning
rush hour works out. Government officials will also be watching
closely to see how the newly closed roads -- which carried almost
50,000 vehicles a day -- will affect traffic in the city's core.
"Bottlenecks can be just about anywhere" said Linda Grant, a
spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Public Works. "There are
26,000 vehicles that use Pennsylvania Avenue and 23,000 that use
E Street. There is going to be some impact along all those
President Clinton's order, which took effect early Saturday,
closed Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th streets NW as
well as State Place, effectively cutting off westbound traffic on
E Street NW. The streets were closed for security reasons, to
buffer the White House from a car bombing or other attack.
Ms. Grant said traffic engineers will watch traffic flows and
determine if H Street, which is now a two-way road, should become
oneway eastbund. She said alternate east-west arteries include
Constitution and Independence avenues south of the White House
and H, I and K streets to the north.
In an attempt to keep things flowing today, most on-street
parking will be eliminated in the two-block area around the White
House, allowing extra lanes for traffic throughout the day.
"That's fine tomorrow, but what about the next day and the next?"
Jay Witter IV asked yesterday. He is a congressional aide from
Alexandria who expects traffic to back up into Virginia today.
"This won't go away. It's permanent.
"It's going to be a zoo. It's going to be massive gridlock,"
predicted Mr. Witter, 27. "Cars are going to be backed ujp from
here to Virginia. It's insane."
Mr. Witter will get one break this morning: Like all federal
employees in the District, he will be alllowed to show up for
work an hour late because ofthe traffic changes.
From appearances yesterday, when traffic was light, there could
be problems on 15th Street, especially north of New York Avenue,
where it intersects with Pennsylvania Avenue. All traffic from
westbound New Yourk Avenue will ahve to turn right onto 15th
Street and figure out a way to turn left and head west again.
Westbound traffic on E Street will also have to stop at 15th
Street and turn left or right. A trash bin in the right
northbound lane of 17th Street near the Old Executive Office
Building won't help matters in the morning.
Mr. Martin's favorite route - westbound on E Street between 15th
and 17th streets - was closed yesterday, forcing him to turn left
against traffic and head south to Constitution, then west toward
17th Street. The trek normally takes less than a minute, but it
took about eight mnutes yesterday in light traffic.
Cheryl Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Washington Metropolitan
Area Transit Authority, said about 30 bus routes that normally
run along Pennsylvania Avenue will be diverted to H Street.
There are temporary bus stop signs mounted on street signs to
show riders where the buses stop.
She said Metro is trying to take adavantage of the situation.
"We are encouraging people to use our very viable alternative
means of transportation," she said. "That's Metrorail."
A Metrobus supervisor said the new routes are the same ones used
when Pennsylvania Avenue was closed in the past for ceremonies
"We've done this before, but never in rush hour," he said. "I'd
cut a wide berth around the White House. It will probably be a
By Jim Keary
THE WASHlNGTON TlMES
Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park