- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

The National Capital Planning Commission will vote today on a design plan that would make the closed stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House pedestrian-friendly.
The plan is to remove the jersey walls, concrete roadblocks and other security measures that have been there since September 11 and replace them with trees, a walkway and reinforced benches.
The plan would affect the portion of Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th streets Northwest, and Jackson and Madison places. It would cost an estimated $15 million to build in time for Inauguration Day 2005.
"What is most important, it rescues the avenue from the signature of terrorists," said D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat. "This [concept] is the first step to the ultimate opening of Pennsylvania Avenue. It's like a first step to telegraph to the world that Pennsylvania Avenue will once again open as it was intended to be."
The Massachusetts-based firm of Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates created the design. The firm was selected by the commission during the summer to come up with an urban pedestrian park security and landscape design to replace the current barriers and makeshift security measures.
The commission's task force chose the Van Valkenburgh design because its security measures allow for easy removal should the Secret Service deem Pennsylvania Avenue safe to reopen to vehicular traffic, Mrs. Norton said.
At their meeting today, the planning commission members will decide whether to accept Mr. Van Valkenburgh's design, make changes to it or send the firm's landscape architects back to the drawing board. The public is invited to attend the meeting.
President Bush closed E Street behind the White House after the September 11 attacks. President Clinton closed Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th streets after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. At the time, the avenue handled 29,000 vehicles a day.
There is little visible effort to reopen Pennsylvania to vehicular traffic. The closure has caused traffic delays and jams for the past eight years.
To solve the traffic problems, some officials have suggested building a tunnel under the closed section of Pennsylvania, costing $55 million, or under E Street south of the White House, costing $135 million.
"I think the avenue should be open for everything," said Ann Hume Loikow, vice president of the Federation of Citizens Association. "I think we've gone overboard without analyzing what the dangers are."
The National Capital Planning Commission is the federal government's central planning agency in the District and provides guidance for federal land and buildings in the region.

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