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D.C. mayor expresses ‘outrage’ over Secret Service road closures

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray sent an outraged letter to the U.S. Secret Service on Tuesday complaining that the agency is "paralyzing" city traffic with its frequent road closures.

In the letter to Secret Service Director Julia A. Pierson, Mr. Gray complains of recent closures around a downtown hotel that obstructed several blocks of southbound 14th Street Northwest, "one of our city's busiest thoroughfares."

"These actions create gridlock in and around this area that will cause tremendous inconvenience to tens of thousands of District workers and visitors especially during rush hour," Mr. Gray wrote. "To treat the District with such disrespect is simply unacceptable."

The District has been hosting the annual meeting of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which featured an address Tuesday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

An advisory issued Friday by the Metropolitan Police Department and the District's Department of Transportation noted that the southbound lanes of 14th Street would be closed for a "special event" from 8 a.m. Sunday through 2 p.m. Tuesday and advise motorists to find other routes.

"I appreciate that important dignitaries visiting the nation's capital and the White House must be afforded every courtesy and protection available by the United States government and local jurisdictions," Mr. Gray wrote. "However, I do not understand why the Secret Service insists on dignitaries staying in a hotel that results in significant portions of downtown Washington being paralyzed by traffic."

The letter asks Ms. Pierson to work with city officials to find a security approach that is more sensitive to the impact closures have on D.C. residents.

Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said the agency routinely produces after-action reviews of visits by foreign dignitaries and looks forward to meeting with the mayor's office to discuss the matter.

"In a city like Washington, D.C. there are occasions where multiple motorcades may be transiting the city at the same time as street closures related to conventions with thousands of attendees, plus traffic volume related to weather issues, all of which can cause traffic issues for residents and commuters," Mr. Leary said.

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