- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2001

On Tuesday, a House subcommittee on D.C. affairs approved a non-binding resolution to encourage President Bush to follow through on his promise of reopening Pennsylvania Avenue. The resolution asks Mr. Bush to implement a plan that "permanently returns Pennsylvania Avenue to the use of residents, commuters and visitors to the nation's capital." The Government Reform Committee is expected to approve the resolution later this summer, paving the way for consideration by the full House unless, of course, Mr. Bush acts sooner. After all, promises are meant to be kept.

Then-President Bill Clinton permanently closed the two-block stretch of the avenue in front of the White House in 1995 following the Oklahoma City bombing. The Secret Service was adamant then about the closure and remains so. But bipartisanship on the Hill as well as civic-minded groups, led by the Federal City Council (FCC), continue push to reopen the street. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Connie Morella, Montgomery County Republican, have both pledged their full support. "We will not forget until it's reopened," Mrs. Morella said.

The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) is working on a proposal that will reopen the street and still maintain tight security for the president and others who work in the White House. Its report is scheduled to be ready by the end of July. Security concerns are the only reason for the closure, but those should soon be quelled. The NCPC report and the House resolution are joined by a Rand Corp. report, sponsored by the FCC, all stating security measures can be maintained even with the reopening of the avenue.

The United States is an open and free democracy, and the sight of its presidential home blockaded by security personnel and larger-than-life cement flower pots reflect the aura of a closed-door government, a government against the people not of, by and for the people. "They have turned into a parking lot for government vehicles," said Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican. "It's atrocious looking, what they have done to it."

There is more evidence to support reopening the road. In a city already knotted to a standstill with traffic, the rerouting of more than 29,000 vehicles onto already tight arteries and small veins of sidestreets has caused gridlock downtown. Reopening the highly traveled east-west avenue would help to ease that congestion. Also, the District has lost some $2.7 million in parking and other revenues since the 1995 closure. Businesses, meanwhile, have lost more than $500,000 each year.

The Republican Party's platform before the presidential election said, "We will reopen Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House as a symbolic expression of our confidence in the restoration of the rule of law." Mr. Bush has said he doesn't like the symbolism of Pennsylvania Avenue being blocked off. He could fulfill his promise by issuing an executive order that reopens America's "Main Street."

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