- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 18, 2001

An interagency task force on reopening Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House will release the results of its study no earlier than this fall, not this month as previously expected.
Task force leader Richard L. Friedman, former chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), said more study is needed on how the road's closure affects traffic. The task force had a self-imposed deadline to release its report to Congress and President Bush by the end of this month.
"At the request of federal and local transportation officials, [the NCPC task force] has agreed to delay the release of its report until the completion of a traffic analysis currently under way," Mr. Friedman said in a statement.
Parsons Transportation Group, the consulting firm conducting the study, needs more time "to gather data on traffic counts and turning volumes at key intersections, run simulation models, and calculate evaluation measures such as intersection levels of service, and estimated travel times," Mr. Friedman said.
Parsons, which is working with the NCPC, the District's transportation division, the Secret Service and the Federal Highway Administration, expects to have its analysis completed by late September.
Calls to Parsons seeking comment were not returned yesterday.
Parsons' delay in completing its analysis will force the NCPC task force to delay until October or November the delivery of its full report on reopening Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th streets NW and recommendations for revising safety measures for the White House.
More than 29,000 vehicles daily traveled the east-west corridor in front of the White House before President Bill Clinton closed the road in May 1995 at the behest of the Secret Service in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing.
Since the road's closure, businesses have reported lost income of more than $500,000 a year, and side roads along Pennsylvania Avenue have become choked with traffic. D.C. officials have said the city has lost more than $2.7 million in meter fees and has reworked bus routes because of the closure.
Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin said his agency is open to ideas for reopening the 1,600-foot stretch of road without compromising the White House security.
"Maybe there is a plan that mitigates vulnerabilities and eases the traffic," Mr. Mackin said, adding that the Secret Service thinks security vulnerabilities still exist.
The delay will help the task force craft the best possible options, he said, since more information will be gathered.
The task force began working on the issue in March, months after Mr. Bush said during the 2000 presidential campaign that he would look at reopening the avenue.
Pressure on Mr. Bush to reopen the street has increased from both sides of the aisle.
Rep. Constance A. Morella, Maryland Republican, held a House subcommittee hearing on the issue in March, and the panel approved a resolution calling for the road's reopening.
Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat and outspoken critic of the road's closure, said the traffic problems attributed to the closure have "been studied to death" and another study only delays the inevitable decision Mr. Bush is going to have to make.
"It's a judgment call weighing common sense with overreaction to perceived threats," Mr. Moran said.
Traffic woes created by the road's closure, he said, are plainly visible to anyone who works in, lives in or visits the District.
"It's a main thoroughfare. The traffic pattern doesn't function when you choke the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue," Mr. Moran said.
Supporters for reopening the street have cited a study by the Rand Corp. that shows how the avenue could incorporate several design changes that would allow the reopening without compromising safety.
One of the study's most prominent suggestions is for a 60-foot curb to be built into the street in front of the White House.
Known as the "Jefferson Bow" because it was envisioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1802, the bend would put more of a buffer between the White House and pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
The Rand plan also would ban truck traffic along the road.

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