- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

The District hoped for a boom in tourism and shopping over the weekend, offering free Metro rail and bus rides, special exhibits and festivals, but business didn't rebound. City officials blame road restrictions put in place by the U.S. Capitol Police in the federal enclave as part of the problem.
Metro said its rail system saw better crowds this past weekend than it had seen on any weekend since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Saturday saw a nearly 29 percent increase over the previous three Saturdays with 279,000 trips. Sunday's 225,000 trips bested the previous three Sundays by more than 55 percent.
But when you compare this past weekend to a typical October weekend last year, ridership only increased 31/2 percent.
The Smithsonian Institution said attendance at its museums over the past weekend was good, but could have been better. Nearly 67,000 people visited one of the Smithsonian's six museums Saturday to see some of the special exhibits as part of the "Be A Tourist In Your Hometown" weekend. Just over 50,000 visited Sunday. Monday's numbers, though, were down about 10,000 people, compared with the same weekend last year.
Commenting on the fact that the weekend event didn't draw the expected crowds, D. C. Council member Carol Schwartz said people were scared off "due to rumors and trucks being diverted by dozens of officers patrolling."
"A lot of folks didn't show up, expecting that the traffic would be impossible," she said.
Several advisory neighborhood commissioners said the trucks being diverted by dozens of police officers at every intersection in the Capitol Police's jurisdiction are finding alternative routes in neighborhoods, disturbing residents, and making neighborhoods unsafe.
"Just as unacceptable as trucks around the Capitol now, would be rerouting these trucks onto residential streets," said Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting Democratic representative, whose request for a hearing before the congressional subcommittee on D.C. issues will be held on Oct. 26. The hearing will focus on the negative impact to the economy and commerce stemming from the fast-moving security road closures.
"When Uncle Sam sends dangerous trucks away from the Capitol and onto our city streets, he owes the District a state-of-the-art traffic-management plan to relieve confusion and hardship," Mrs. Norton said.
The street closings, including Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House and E Street behind it, also drew a strong reaction from Mayor Anthony A. Williams' administration and city officials.
"We're fighting for every inch of space and these incremental changes in traffic patterns have a profound impact on businesses in the area, despite the fact that there are no businesses within the enclave," said Tony Bullock, the mayor's communications director.
"We had E Street Northwest open, and now that is gone, we may never get it back. You wonder how necessary all this is when the problem is coming through the mail," said Mrs. Schwartz, at-large Republican.
Mrs. Norton said she is seeking a hearing on these or other planned changes and will meet with the Capitol Hill police to ensure that in the future there is more notice to the District, which may face backups on city streets when such changes are made.
In the letter to the House and the Senate, she asked for better coordination between federal agencies and the National Capital Planning Commission when barricades are erected.
During the upcoming hearing, Mrs. Norton will ask for changes to the current restrictions.
"I see no reason why tour buses and their passengers cannot be screened to deliver tourists closer to the Capitol and other official buildings that are tourist destinations," she said.

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