- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2000

April 19, 1995: A truck bomb exploded outside the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, killing 169 men, women and children. May 20, 1995: The Secret Service closes Pennsylvania Avenue from 15th to 17th streets NW, the two blocks in front of the White House and the U.S. Treasury Building. Sept. 25, 2000: National, local and civic leaders unveil a plan to reopen a national symbol and one of the capital's major east-west arteries.

The plan, called "America's Main Street: The Case for Reopening Pennsylvania Avenue," is simple. It calls for reshaping the roadway, permanently barring trucks, buses and other large vehicles, and using manned security kiosks, pedestrian bridgeways and electronic surveillance.

For example, the Secret Service is concerned about how close vehicular traffic can get to the White House, and the proposal deals with those concerns in several ways. For starters, it suggests narrowing the roadway from six to four lanes and arching the roadway with a "bow," or curve, away from the White House and toward Lafayette Park. This design, which actually was suggested by Thomas Jefferson in 1802, would add approximately 50 feet to the distance between the avenue and the White House. Also, the proposal suggests building two low-hanging archways to carry pedestrians across Pennsylvania Avenue.

The idea of reopening Pennsylvania Avenue has had bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, and the Republican Party went a huge step forward and called for reopening the avenue in its platform. The Democratic Party did not, although the White House has been briefed on the new proposal. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who oversees the Secret Service, has not called for reopening the avenue.

The plan was developed on behalf of the Federal City Council, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group of business leaders and civic leaders. "The closed section of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House not only symbolizes giving in to our fear of terrorism," council President Bob Dole said in a statement, "but it has resulted in literally cutting in half the downtown of the nation's capital. The proposal we are releasing today is measured and reasonable. It mitigates the risk to the president, his family and the White House staff while recognizing the fundamental American values, such as openness and accessibility, must not be sacrificed for the sake of security."

The council's proposal is a welcome effort to bring back into balance two important goals: public accessibility to America's Main Street and White House security. The Clinton administration, the Secret Service in particular, should take that proposal seriously.

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