- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 10, 2002

In 1995, Bill Clinton accepting the Secret Service's requests shut down two blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue to motorists except those cleared to visit the White House. The closure created a traffic nightmare, stunting commerce for nearby businesses. The unilateral decision drew such broad and nonpartisan criticism that reopening America's so-called Main Street became an issue in the Republican Party's 2000 platform. Since September 11, the Secret Service has become even more cautionary.
Yesterday, the Secret Service began prohibiting trucks along an eight-block stretch of 17th Street NW from H Street, which is the northern side of Lafayette Square, to Constitution Avenue, the east-west corridor that is already gridlocked with locals, tourists and commuters. The eight-block stretch includes federal entities, such as the old Executive Office Building and offices of the U.S. Trade Representative, as well as the American Red Cross headquarters, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Organization of American States and the headquarters of Daughters of the American Revolution. E Street, which runs behind the White House, is closed, and parking, stopping and standing is prohibited on 17th Street. Rush-hour traffic yesterday morning was painful. The evenings likely will prove to be worse since the Secret Service moved the vendors, which sell the usual tourist items, onto Constitution Avenue. Also, there are post-September 11 traffic restrictions around Capitol Hill, where blocks of parking were already limited to staffers on Capitol Hill.
Secret Service spokesman Brian Marr said no specific threat led to the recent street closures, and he probably wouldn't tell us anyway. Fine. Even a generic threat i.e., a truck bomb is headed toward downtown Washington merits securing the perimeter of the White House. That, perhaps, explains why, the night before the restrictions took effect, law-enforcement officers were stopping trucks of all sizes around the city.
We understand that the world we fell asleep to on September 10 is far different than the one we awoke to September 11.
That new reality requires new security calculations. But maintaining a functional traffic flow is also necessary.
The Secret Service, like any bureaucracy, will reach (and historically has reached) for more restrictions than necessary. Ultimately, the president must make the call. Because security issues may inhibit a full public debate of the matter, the White House should assemble and work with a panel of respected community and business leaders to design a plan that assures both the White House security and acceptable traffic flows. Because the solution may cost real money, a Senate and House appropriator should probably be on the panel.

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