- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2001

U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella yesterday introduced a resolution in the House urging the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) to recommend to President Bush that Pennsylvania Avenue be reopened in front of the White House.
"It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the [NCPC] should adopt a plan that permanently returns Pennsylvania Avenue to the use of residents, commuters, and visitors to the Nations capital," the resolution reads.
Mrs. Morella, Maryland Republican and chairman of the House Government Reform subcommittee on the District, said in prepared remarks attached to the resolution that it is "high time" to reopen the east-west corridor that links the White House to the Capitol.
It was not known when a vote would be taken on the resolution, which is co-sponsored by seven other House members.
An interagency task force formed by NCPC Chairman Richard L. Friedman is scheduled to deliver a report to Mr. Bush in July on whether to reopen the 1,600-foot section of "Americas Main Street."
"The security of the president remains paramount to us," Mrs. Morella said. "But we cannot build a glass bubble around the White House."
At the Secret Services behest, President Clinton ordered the road closed to cars and trucks in May 1995, a month after a Ryder truck loaded with explosives ripped through the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 persons, including children.
Secret Service and Treasury Department officials have wanted to shut down the road since 1950, when President Truman was attacked by a would-be assassin in front of nearby Blair House.
The NCPC is the congressionally created planning agency for the District and surrounding suburbs.
The sense of the House resolution carries more weight than other simple resolutions because it is specifically showing the Houses desire on an issue. In this case, the resolution asks the NCPC "to adopt a plan that restores vehicular access — and, with it, a sense of democratic openness," Mrs. Morella said.
Mr. Friedman, who heads the NCPC task force, said in a statement that his group is "carefully examining" the issue.
"We appreciate Congresswoman Morellas interest in the future of Pennsylvania Avenue," Mr. Friedman said.
Mrs. Morellas subcommittee last month held a hearing on the possibility of reopening the stretch of road where 29,000 vehicles once traveled along it each day.
In addition to hearing about different designs to reopen the road, including the Federal City Council-backed Rand Corp. plan submitted last fall, members of the subcommittee heard testimony from citizens, business leaders and Secret Service officials.
While the Secret Service made clear its desire for keeping the street closed to protect the president, his family and executive mansion visitors, those speaking on behalf of the city and businesses told of lost revenue and traffic congestion resulting from the streets closure.
Businesses say they lose about $500,000 annually because of the roads closure.
"As anyone who has been stuck in the gridlock while trying to drive across town certainly knows, that 'temporary blockade still exists," Mrs. Morella said. "And it exists much to the detriment of our nations capital, where unsightly concrete barriers make us look like a city under siege."
One the resolutions co-sponsors, Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said the resolution should add to recent momentum to get the street opened. "I think weve got a shot at reversing the executive order ," he said. "It would try to put a little more pressure on the White House… . It provides some cover for the president."
During the presidential campaign, Mr. Bush vowed to look at reopening the street. Democrats and Republicans have strongly urged him to open the road while ensuring the security of the White House and its occupants.
Two of the resolutions co-sponsors — Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the Districts nonvoting representative — recently signed a letter sent by Mrs. Morella to Mr. Bush asking that he open the road.
The resolution is significant because House members from outside this region have co-sponsored the measure. Reps. John T. Doolittle, California Republican; Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat; Joe Knollenberg, Michigan Republican; and Tom Petri, Wisconsin Republican, are the other co-sponsors.
Pete Evich, legislative director for Mr. Doolittle, said his congressman thinks reopening the street would be the "patriotic" thing to do and "restore our confidence in the rule of law."
"Its a very important road to the American people and they should have access to it," Mr. Evich said. "He thinks it was a shame that it was closed in the first place.

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