- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2000

Now that everyone knows who will be occupying the White House upon President Clinton's departure, all eyes are upon the transition and President-elect George W. Bush. Perhaps Mr. Bush will take a few moments to ponder a concern, which would win him instant friends in the community of residents and business people here in Washington: the reopening of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.

Against the wishes of President Clinton, Congress and practically everybody else, the U.S. Secret Service closed Pennsylvania Avenue after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The Secret Service wants those two blocks to stay closed permanently despite the cowardly message it sends.

It is all in the Republican platform, which says: "We will reopen Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House as a symbolic expression of our confidence in the restoration of the rule of law." The Democratic Party made no similar declarative statement, although the effort to reopen "America's Main Street" is indeed a bipartisan one. The nation's capital remains grateful for all their support.

Particularly helpful is a new proposal appropriately called "America's Main Street: The Case for Reopening Pennsylvania Avenue." The proposal accepts the Secret Service's concerns that trucks pose a special risk and suggests permanently barring trucks, buses and other large vehicles. It also recommends reshaping the roadway so that Pennsylvania Avenue will be moved away from the White House and Treasury Building, using manned security kiosks, adding electronic surveillance and constructing low-hanging archways to enhance access for pedestrians.

The proposal was developed on behalf of a nonpartisan group of business and civic leaders called the Federal City Council. Its president is former Senate leader Bob Dole, who has said the proposal not only "mitigates the risk to the president, his family and the White House staff," but also recognizes that "fundamental American values, such as openness and accessibility, must not be sacrificed for the sake of security."

Closing Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th streets has created other, albeit parochial, problems. The city and private businesses have lost revenue, traffic reconfigurations are a nightmare and cement barricades stand as ugly reminders of the Secret Service's hasty decision.

The Secret Service appears determined not to change its mind and its boss, Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, has not called publicly for reopening the avenue. Nor has President Clinton. Fortunately, Mr. Bush does not stand among their ranks. He could make a good start by giving Americans back the nation's main street.

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