- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2000

The Secret Service has yet to approve a plan that would reopen Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, which has been closed to traffic for security reasons since 1995.
Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin said his agency had not received a "full report" on the plan, which various local leaders offered yesterday. But a briefing last week indicated some "vulnerabilities still exist" for attacks on the White House, Mr. Mackin said.
The plan calls for curving Pennsylvania Avenue 60 feet farther from the White House than it is now and allowing only cars to use that part of the street.
In addition, low pedestrian walkways with security checkpoints would be built on each of the White House grounds to prevent the passage of trucks, buses and other large vehicles.
District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said "everybody, including the Secret Service" would approve of the plan.
But D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District's nonvoting representative in Congress, said: "I have been informed that the Service does not support this plan because of a new set of concerns."
"The safety of the president, first family, visitors and America's first home is of first priority," said White House spokesman Elliot Diringer.
In April 1995, the Secret Service recommended that President Clinton close the 1,600-foot-long section of Pennsylvania Avenue, citing security concerns after the terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The explosion killed 168 persons, including 19 children.
At that time, about 29,000 vehicles traveled in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th streets NW each day.
The street's closure diverted traffic onto H, I and K streets and Constitution Avenue, slowing commuters 20 to 45 minutes each day, according to a study resulting in yesterday's plan.
"It is strangling our transportation and our economy," said Terence Golden, chief executive officer of Host Marriott Corp.
The study, which referred repeatedly to noncooperation by the Secret Service, was prepared by the Rand Corp. for a task force of the Federal City Council, a private nonprofit business group that spent $100,000 for the plan.
Council President Bob Dole, the former Senate majority leader, and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York Democrat, headed the task force that created the 73-page Rand report.
"There is no such thing as zero risk," Mr. Moynihan said, emphasizing that the reopening plan would provide maximum protection for White House occupants. "The only triumph of terrorism is if we become terrified."
The plan would:
Reduce the width of the avenue from six traffic and two parking lanes to four lanes. Stopping and standing would be prohibited at all times and traffic would be barred altogether from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Curve the avenue northward from 325 to 385 feet from the White House more than three times the distance provided to overseas U.S. embassies as protection against vehicle-borne explosive attacks.
Construct 60-foot pedestrian bridges over each end of the new avenue. They would be 7 and 1/2 feet above the street, preventing passage of trucks and similar vehicles, and would be movable to allow traditional inaugural parades.
Build "attractively designed" kiosks at the 15th and 17th street intersections for guards 24 hours a day to increase security.
The plan was first reported in The Washington Post yesterday.
The task force called the northward curve "Jefferson Bow" because it was first suggested in 1802 by President Thomas Jefferson as an architectural enhancement of the curved north front of the White House.
The study said closing Pennsylvania Avenue was costing $460,628 annually in reduced parking meter and ticket revenues and forced re-routing of scheduled services.
Since 1995, parking-meter losses totaled $728,000 and modifying Metro cost the District nearly $1.6 million.
Mrs. Norton said the Secret Service can be expected to oppose the reopening, noting that the agency "sought to close the avenue for decades, long before terrorism became a genuine threat."
Mr. Clinton told her he would like to reopen the avenue, but would want assurance that White House personnel would be safe, said Mrs. Norton.
The Secret Service has been working with the Park Police and the National Park Service to loosen some 5-year-old traffic restrictions. For instance, E Street NW, one block north of Pennsylvania Avenue, has been one-way since the avenue was closed but is opening to two-way traffic, Mr. Mackin said.
In July, the Republican Party approved a platform calling for reopening of Pennsylvania Avenue. Several Democrats also suggested that security could be ensured while keeping the White House open to view.

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