- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2001

The metropolitan areas central transportation planning agency yesterday urged President Bush to reopen Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.
The resolution calling on Mr. Bush to reopen "Americas Main Street" was offered by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), which comprises elected and appointed officials from the District, Virginia and Maryland.
"Pennsylvania Avenue is important to all three jurisdictions," board chairman John Mason said. "One would hope we are speaking with one voice."
The unanimously approved resolution says closing Pennsylvania Avenue a month after the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing "has seriously affected the ability of District residents, suburban commuters and visitors to move through the vital area of the District of Columbia."
The resolution cites Mr. Bushs examination of the closure as evidence that the time is ripe for the east-west thoroughfare to be reopened.
Mr. Bush said during the 2000 presidential campaign that he would look at reopening the street, which is traveled by 29,000 cars daily. Businesses along the road have lost about $500,000 a year due to the closure, and side streets routinely are jammed with cars and trucks.
"While its one street in the District its a main thoroughfare for commuters and prime gateway for tourists," said Fairfax County Supervisor Dana Kauffman, a Democrat.
The resolution marks the first time the TPB has spoken out about this issue — a significant accomplishment, board members said.
"Its a very measured statement," said Arlington County Supervisor Christopher E. Zimmerman.
Mr. Zimmerman said the resolution strikes a balance in addressing the needs of the Secret Service to provide security to the president, his family and White House guests, while recognizing the closures impact on the District.
The Secret Service has urged that the 1,600-foot stretch of road in front of the White House be closed since a would-be assassin tried to kill President Truman in 1950.
President Clinton closed the road in 1995 at the urging of the Secret Service, who fear an attack by a truck bomb similar to the one that exploded in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Mr. Mason, who is also Fairfaxs mayor, said the resolution should add pressure to get the road reopened.
"Were speaking on behalf of the region and the regions transportation interests and hopefully that has some meaning," Mr. Mason said.
The resolution is the most recent support for the roads reopening since three local members of Congress — D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and U.S. Reps. Constance A. Morella of Maryland and Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia — this month sent a letter to Mr. Bush asking for the road to be reopened.
Last fall, the Federal City Council, a group of civic and business leaders in the District, sponsored a study by the Rand Corp. that showed how the road could be reopened safely.
A congressional hearing was held on this issue last month, and an interagency task force formed by the National Capital Planning Commission is expected to report to Mr. Bush and Congress in July with a recommendation on how best to safely reopen the road.
Many TPB members stressed that the numerous plans to reopen the road show that there is a concerted, thoughtful effort to get the road reopened.
"There is a symbolism importance," said D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat. "Pennsylvania Avenue is a local street and a national street."


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