- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2001

Traffic in the metropolitan Washington area was lighter than normal yesterday, but that was small comfort for commuters around military installations, where heightened security caused long delays and worse-than-usual gridlock.
After terrorists hijacked and slammed planes into the World Trade Center's twin towers and the Pentagon on Tuesday morning, the Department of Defense ordered all military units to take on the highest level of security, "Threat Con Delta."
Personnel reporting to their bases — including Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Silver Spring and the National Naval Medical Center near Bethesda — had to go through security and sometimes searches before they could get to their workplaces. Their vehicles backed up into and at times blocked civilian traffic lanes.
At Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., where biological weapons research is conducted, some employees arrived at work five hours late. A high-ranking Army officer said delays were caused by barricades, extra credential checks and Jersey wall mazes erected to slow drivers and to prevent anyone from running the gate.
"Traffic has been pretty hectic," said Navy firefighter Shannon McGraw at the National Naval Medical Center along Wisconsin Avenue.
Commuter traffic was slow along Route 175 at the border of Fort Meade south of Baltimore, especially where four lanes narrowed to two, Maryland State Police Lt. Bud Frank said. Still, he added, "We didn't experience any real problems."
Though some military officials apologized for the inconvenience, they said the precautions were necessary for security.
Officials reported no real problems with commuter traffic around Fort Myer in Arlington County and Andrews Air Force Base in Montgomery County.
Fort Belvoir, which coincidentally began tightening security by closing 20 gates last month, went even further by checking all entrance identifications and allowing only workers or residents to enter the five access points, including two that are open only during morning and evening rush hours.
Virginia police said through traffic was slowed somewhat near entrances to Quantico Marine Corps Base in Prince William County.
Drivers downtown had good news and bad news.
D.C. police reopened some streets around their headquarters, U.S. District and D.C. Superior courthouses and Judiciary Square, and Constitution Avenue near the White House. But they closed streets to through traffic in a wider area around Capitol Hill, including the Supreme Court, Library of Congress and congressional offices. The streets will remain closed "until further notice."
Traffic tie-ups were major on 16th Street and Georgia Avenue entrances into Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Northwest, said Margaret Johnson, information secretary.
"Traffic was very light today," said Lucy Caldwell, spokeswoman for Virginia State Police, adding that only the exit ramp onto Washington Boulevard to the Pentagon remained closed.
Heavier commuter loads are expected today as area schools reopen and most commuters are expected to resume normal schedules.
Margie Hyslop contributed to this report.


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