- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2001

With scant warning, U.S. Capitol Police yesterday closed major sections of Constitution and Independence avenues to commercial traffic "24-7, indefinitely," according to Lt. Dan Nichols of the Capitol Police apparently out of overwrought concern that a terrorist might otherwise be able to get a truck filled with explosives near the U.S. Capitol. No trucks or buses (excepting those operated by Metro) will be allowed to travel on Constitution Avenue between Second Street NE and Louisiana Avenue NW, and Independence Avenue between Second Street SE and Washington Avenue SW about four blocks in both directions. Capitol Police began redirecting trucks and other commercial vehicles early yesterday morning, forcing them to turn around or take other routes. This is probably not the result of hysteria so much as bureaucratic envy, an eagerness not to let the Secret Service, which wants to enclose the White House in a moat of concrete, have all the fun.
The result of these closures will not be enhanced security, but chaos. Not even the government of the District of Columbia was informed in time to take steps to deal with the inevitable gridlock that's bound to occur as vehicles are forced to go around the new verboten area, clogging secondary roads and vying with already confused tourists and other outlanders attempting to negotiate the city's increasingly impenetrable roads. Lt. Nichols estimates that some 50,000 vehicles per day use the affected stretches of Constitution and Independence avenues with up to 50 large commercial-type vehicles traveling on the affected portion of Independence Avenue every hour. Where these vehicles will go and how they will manage to get to their destinations on time is someone else's problem.
The Capitol Police, which has jurisdiction over the roads near federal buildings such as the Capitol, told the mayor's people about the closures late Wednesday, around 6 p.m leaving them next to no time to do anything about it. Nor does this augur well if the city should fall victim to catastrophe: Would the Capitol Police bother to let anyone else in on their response?
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton says she will ask for a congressional hearing to find out why the Capitol Police think they're justified in closing down these major arteries to so much traffic much of it very important to the economic vitality of the city. "We've got to get used to some precautions being taken around this city," she told The Washington Post. But security concerns should not trump all other considerations or force us into foxholes. "The standard should be: Does life proceed mostly as it did before?" And more to the point: Are we willing to let the terrorists turn our capital city into an American Beirut? The answer should be no or else the terrorists have partially succeeded in their goal of instilling dread in us to such an extent that we're afraid to go about our business. Those sections of Independence and Constitution avenues ought to be reopened to traffic and the city's business allowed to proceed. Does Congress have anything to say about this?

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