MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 1996
Several ideas that could get traffic moving
Transportation experts have had nine months to mull the
closing of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, the
effects of the two-block closure on traffic downtown and options
for alleviating congestion.
One intriguing idea comes from John Undeland, public relations
director at the American Automobile Association's Potomac
His advice is easily summarized: Widen E Street NW.
The four-lane street, which runs east-west like Pennsylvania
Avenue, has been closed to westbound traffic for several months.
To Mr. Undeland, this makes no sense. Traffic on E Street should
be expanded, not limited.
"Why not cede some of the parkland behind the White House and
make traffic on E Street two ways?" he asks. "They could even
straighten out E Street so it stays a good distance away from the
White House. This would really help crosstown traffic."
With President Clinton's permission, the Secret Service closed
Pennsylvania Avenue NW on May 20 for security reasons. Between
15th and 17th streets NW, the avenue is a short distance from the
front of the White House. As such, it was a popular spot for
mobile tourists to pull over and snap pictures -- and a concern
for the agents who protect the president.
E Street NW runs behind the White House and is considerably
farther away. Mr. Undeland sees no threat there; but if the
Secret Service does, he suggests the National Park Service turn
over some land to the south.
E Street NW could be straightened, widened to six lanes and kept
farther away from the White House than it is
An ad hoc commission of 15 architects, engineers and landscape
architects is weighing various ideas of what to do with the
closed portion of Pennsylvania Avenue-- including a plan to
reconfigure Lafayette Square. The commission is scheduled to
release in April four or five alternatives, including one
preferred alternative, says Dennis Galvin, the Park Service"s
associate director of professional services.
Mr. Galvin says the commission is not considering ideas to
alleviate downtown traffic, however. He suggests the D.C.
government take the lead in that
After Pennsylvania Avenue was closed, D.C. officials bemoaned
the loss of revenue from parking meters caused by new parking
restrictions on 15th, 17th, Hand I streets. They estimated an
annual loss of $752,000.
City officials may not want to hear it, but downtown traffic on
H and I streets NW would move much more swiftly -- especially
midday -- if they ripped out more parking meters.
There is no parking on H Street NW, which runs one way
eastbound, from 17th Street NW to Vermont Avenue NW. Beyond that,
parking is allowed on both sides of the street from 9:30 a.m. to
The result is four lanes of traffic bottling up into two lanes.
Traffic on I Street NW, which runs one way westbound, seems even
worse. Parking is allowed on both sides until 13th Street NW, then
But construction at the Veterans Affairs building prevents cars
from using the left lane for the entire 1500 block of I Street
NW. Traffic jams are frequent in this area, starting in the
afternoon. There has been no relief from VA-caused congestion
since Pennsylvania Avenue NW was closed.
Often, it's not just the construction on the left driving
motorists nuts. It's delivery trucks double-parked on the right.
Add a line of cars waiting to make a left turn on Connecticut
Avenue and more waiting to make a left on 17th Street a short
block later -- where midday parking is allowed - and the traffic
on I street begins to resemble the cargo on the Cape May ferry.
Put pressure on the VA to get rid of the fence blocking
traffic on I Street.
Get rid of parking on both sides of H and I streets from 13th
to 17th streets (there are relatively few spaces there now).
Enforce the law against delivery drivers who doublepark in the
Provide a long left-turn signal from I Street to 17th Street
NW (if only to prevent pedestrians from crossing long enough to
clear the line of cars).
And consider Mr. Undeland's idea. If the parkland immediately
south of the White House grounds is important historically or
otherwise, someone remind the rest of us why.
Since engineers reconfigured downtown streets after the
Pennsylvania Avenue NW closing, there's been a shortage of action
to improve the movement of traffic downtown.
The Park Service, in fact, is closing a northbound lane of 15th
Street as it crosses the Mall for the next year to provide
tourists better access to the Washington Monument.
The $5.1 million project includes adding lights, crosswalks and
additional tour-bus stops for tourists.
"Traffic Stops" appears Mondays. Send questions or suggestions
about transportation matters to "Traffic Stops", The Washington
Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002.
Vance Burden of Washington found a good view of the White House
last year after a portion of Pennsylvania Avenue was closed.
Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park