The Washington Post

Tuesday, May 20,1997

Take Back America's Avenue!

For all those who have not been down to the White House recently for some coffee or a snooze, I have to tell you that things on our Pennsylvania Avenue could not look worse. Since it was closed some three years ago, this grand avenue, mandated by Thomas Jefferson, has been impressively trashed. Two of its three blocks have been converted into parking lots decorated by a maze of concrete Petunia pots and Jersey bunkers.

Perhaps the alteration of a once proud avenue into free convenient parking for White House employees may have been chosen as an appropriate symbol of modern-day America, but I doubt it.

The lined asphalt parking lots now flank the empty center section, bordered by a proliferation of guard houses and mechanically operated steel and concrete barriers that bear an uncanny resemblance to the old Checkpoint Charlie at the Berlin Wall. Many observers, foreign and domestic, have told me they get the same impression.

During the past three years of this "temporary" closing, the government has made no attempt to come up with a technological solution that would protect the White House so this nonsense could be removed and the avenue reopened, or to test proffered solutions, such as a blast-proof laminated glass layer behind the existing metal picket fence. All this is curious, because only two blocks away the General Services Administration has been holding seminars on the protection of government buildings from the terrorist attacks, including the use of laminated glass.

Everyone should bring his skateboard or in-line roller skates so that we can make use of the empty street, admire the precious parking lots, and celebrate the third anniversary of this Washington absurdity.