THE WASHINGTON POST
Wednesday, May 21, 1997
Reopen America's Grand Avenue
FOR TWO years now, the stretch of historic Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House has been an affront to open democracy, sealed off to traffic, desecrated by overzealous security officials and pointlessly transformed into America's Gross National Choke Point. Technological ingenuity must be able to provide more effective, acceptable ways to protect the building, the grounds and those who live and work at 1600.
There's no question that the security of- the president must be a paramount concern. But a retreat a symbol of American confidence and strength to an eyesore strip of employee parking lots is not the answer In a letter to the editor yesterday; architect Arthur Cotton Moore cited a number of other possible ways to protect the White House, such as "a blast- laminated glass layer behind the existing metal picket fence."
Other reasons exist to stop choking off the avenue. In a letter to the president from D.C. Del. Norton and signed by the members of the House representing the entire national capital area, arguments for reopening the avenue included the negative effect of the closing on the city and region's close economic ties to tourism and on traffic, which "in the metropolitan area is in deplorable shape." The sealing off has hurt businesses in this part of town—which, if the Clinton administration is as serious about helping the city as it keeps saying, should prompt some sympathetic response. There has been no White House response, however, other than a statement that plans are to turn this messy scene into some sort of pedestrian park whenever money and environmental assessments materialize. At the very least, the congressional letter suggests, one or two lanes ought to be opened for tour buses and vehicles for the handicapped.
That's insufficient. Congress should not forsake the tradition and history of Pennsylvania Avenue by continuing to countenance this sad concession to terrorism. The response can and should be a reassertion of America's determination to maintain—and effectively protect—its openness.