- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Motorists are always challenged in Washington, trying to maneuver around a labyrinth of potholes, construction crews and daily road closures that would make the mythological Daedalus proud. This particular time of year brings even more concern, as parents, students and other commuters try to establish their new post-Labor Day rhythms and as builders rush to finish work before Old Man Winter comes a calling. For them and others, today and tomorrow will prove especially challenging — for no reason other than to party.

That is because the Defense and Interior Departments and the National Football League will kickoff the 2003-04 season on the National Mall for what is being billed as a festival for football fans of all ages. The Redskins’ season opener is this evening in FedEx Field. On the Mall, there will be the usual gridiron touches (football clinics and hall of famers) and free concerts (Aretha will sing the national anthem). Former Pepsi endorsee Britney Spears will undoubtedly serve plenty of bounce for every ounce of Pepsi Vanilla that will be available — and there will be lots since Pepsi is a cosponsor.

One would think that such big-name sponsors would chip in and pay the public tabs. Yet, Washington area taxpayers will not only have to pay for the heightened security, but they also will have to cover most of the increased costs of Metro. Those costs are estimated at $120,000 for the NFL party.

As for the traffic, consider a few other things. Mother Nature’s daily downpours have given us more than a few hints of what to expect from her today and tomorrow. Today’s storm is expected to grip us about the same time as the daily gridlock. Even if she plans to be a good sport, the challenges of maneuvering people and vehicles around downtown are barely bearable when the Mall is its usual self. Anything that fiddles in the slightest with Washington’s morning and evening commutes should have been left off the table. Yet, they were not.

Daylong east-west and north-south road closures along the Mall. Mass transit crowded with partygoers, schoolchildren and commuters. Security checkpoints. Oodles of unsupervised adolescents and teens. A disgruntled tractor driver?

Law-enforcement officers in our city are already strained, fighting terrorism and street crime. Now, they have to be traffic cops, too?

The District’s transportation chief, Dan Tangherlini, told The Washington Post that the region needs to prove to the NFL that it is Super Bowl-ready, that “we can show we have a very high volume of traffic, but we can move it well.”

Well, traffic will indeed move today and tomorrow, if for no other reason than workers and parents trying to get home to unwind. However, we have our doubts that gridlock will move “well.”

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