- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2001

The D.C. Chamber of Commerce is calling for an immediate economic impact study on the closing of streets around the U.S. Capitol to commercial trucks and tour buses, fearing the closures will escalate the downtown area's economic downturn.
The U.S. Capitol Police's new road-access limitations will make recovery difficult for struggling businesses near the Capitol, said Chamber President Richard A. Monteilh, who heads D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams' task force on the effect of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on small businesses.
"Our Capitol Hill members have already given us their impact analysis for Sept. 11, and I am going to keep our team there to assess the [limited commercial-truck access]. But it will take time considering all that is going on," Mr. Monteilh said.
The Williams administration is waiting to see how long the Capitol Police plan to keep jurisdictional borders closed to commercial-truck traffic before taking a position.
Starting yesterday at 5 a.m., Capitol Police closed the areas between Second Street NE and NW on Constitution Avenue and Second Street SW and SE between Independence Avenue, D Street NE, and Massachusetts Avenue NE to all tractor-trailers, buses (except for Metrobuses and TourMobiles), recreational vehicles and large converted vans. All roads within those boundaries and those adjacent to them are also restricted.
Delivery trucks that need to go inside the boundaries will be screened at a police inspection station in the unit block of P Street SE, said Capitol Police Lt. Dan Nichols. Louisiana, Constitution, Pennsylvania and Independence avenues also will be subject to the restrictions.
Deputy Chief Financial Officer Julia Friedman expressed concern that the street closures will hamstring the city's try to get tourism back to pre-Sept. 11 figures.
"The bottom line is we need to get people back into the city, let alone Capitol Hill," she said. "Clearly, we know that the cumulative impact of all these things is severe, and I am hoping to get a detailed, unbiased analysis arranged, to be completed by an outside party."
Hotel managers in the area have told Mrs. Friedman that they are operating at 40 percent to 45 percent below normal capacity. Roughly one-third of tours, conventions and trips by companies, tour groups and visitors already have been canceled, officials said. Mrs. Friedman said the road closures will not worsen the already dire situation with hotels and tour companies "but it doesn't help."
Residents on Capitol Hill already have begun to complain about large trucks being diverted from the downtown and rumbling through their neighborhoods, said D.C. Council member Harold Brazil, at-large Democrat.
Mr. Brazil, who is a member of the Capitol Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals, said members already are reporting a negative effect.
"They are obviously not against safety measures, but many of the trucks that deliver come from out of state and many don't know the new routes," Mr. Brazil said. "We are getting complaints. Some deliveries are being made, and some are not."
Mr. Brazil stressed that, although he understands that federal officials see this action as a necessary safety measure, "they should have thought it all the way through."
The D.C. Department of Transportation will erect signs and message boards to alert drivers, who were caught off guard yesterday, officials said.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the District's nonvoting congressional representative, also is questioning the federal action. "We need to encourage tourism, not make it harder for visitors to get to their Capitol, to members of Congress, and to their official buildings," she said in a statement yesterday.
The access changes to Capitol Hill streets are not the only new security measures. The Capitol itself and other federal buildings will see some immediate changes.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, suggested to reporters that bulletproof shields be installed in visitor galleries overlooking the Senate floor.
White House tours have been canceled indefinitely, but Capitol tours are continuing somewhat.
Lawmakers are insisting "the people's house" remain open to the public, said Senate sergeant-at-arms Alfonso Lenhardt, adding that he wants the National Guard to help protect it.
State police are understaffed and overworked, and the National Guard would increase safety and security, he said.
"What we've got to do is get them in a position where we can get them some rest and also give them some training that right now they're not having an opportunity to do," Mr. Lenhardt told Roll Call.
"They're tired, and we need to get them back into a position where they can do the training for this increased threat scenario that we're in [and] for the foreseeable future we're going to be in. This is not going to go away tomorrow," Mr. Lenhardt said.
Senators and staff are complaining about evacuation procedures after a fire alarm went off yesterday in the Hart Senate Office Building.
Police officers would not allow evacuating staff to exit the main doors facing Constitution Avenue, instead forcing them to other exits at the opposite end of the building.
* Audrey Hudson contributed to this report.

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