U.S. Says It Will Pay For Closing the Avenue
Officials Irked D.C. was Not Consulted Before Action
By Stephen C. Fehr and Hamil R. Harris
Federal officials promised D.C. Council members yesterday that
the city will not have to foot the bill for converting the
section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House into a
During a two-hour meeting that council members described as
"rocky" at times, Rodney Slater, diredor of the Federal Highway
Administration, said his agency would pay for reprogramming
traffic lights, putting up new signs and making any other
improvements needed to ease traffic around the White House.
Slater said the federal government also will study the overall
traffic and economic effects of closing Pennsylvania Avenue
between 15th and 17th streets NW.
The promise, along with a presentation on security at the White
House, apparently eased the anger of some city officials over the
abrupt way in which the avenue, a main east-west thoroughfare,
was closed last weekend.
"We are not making demands on the federal government; we are not
disputing the Secret Service," council Chairman David A. Clarke
(D) said after the meeting. "What we are saying is that they
ought to meet the problem they aeated when they closed
Slater, Treasury Undersecretary Ronald K. Noble and Secret
Service Director Eljay B. Bowron also said federal officials
would take part in a coming D.C. Council hearing on the avenue
closing. Noble said they want to learn ways to improve the area.
Neither federal nor city officials could provide an estimate of
what the street closing ultimately will cost.
District officials have criticized the federal govenunent for
acting on the closing without consulting the city. Mayor Marion
Barry, in a letter to President Clinton released yesterday, said
federal officials should have conducted a traffic study before
"This would have eliminated the mass chaos, confusion and
frustration, which ultimately resulted," Bany said. "Motorists
were not given any advance notice, which would have allowed them
the opportunity to plan for this drastic change. Rather, we were
all caught off guard."
D.C. police and Metro officials warned that downtown Washington
traffic jams will worsen after officers are pulled from traffic
duty near the White House unless changes are made to two busy
"We cannot maintain this," said police Inspector David W.
Bostrom, referring to the contingent of 40 officers assigned to
key intersections in the area. The $30,000 cost of overtime for
the officers is being borne by the federal government. But as of
next week, their duty is scheduled to end.
The biggest problem from the street closing appears to be the
left, or westbound, turn from northbound 15th Street onto H
Street, which has become the alternate east-west route. The
traffic signals at the intersection are not timed to move the
larger number of cars, trucks and buses now traveling the street.
H Street has three westbound lanes and two eastbound lanes. I
Street goes one way east-bound with four lanes, although it has
room for a fifth lane between 13th and 17th streets.
One plan endorsed by police and Metro officials calls for H
street to be converted to a one-way street eastbound, while I is
made one way westbound.
"H and I both have excess capacity and would function
efficiently as a one-way pair," said Robert L. Morris, a Bethesda
traffic consultant who studied the White House area for the
Metro General Manager Lawrence Reuter said yesterday that he
endorsed creating new traffic patterns or, at the very least,
restricting a lane on H Street to buses.
Linda Grant, a spokeswoman for D.C. Public Works chief Larry
King, said the plan convert H and I streets was still under
review but she added, "We do need more than 24 hours to
deterrnine what we're going to do.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Staff writers Steve Vogel and Howard
Schneider contributed to this report.
Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park