- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2002

The National Capital Planning Commission voted unanimously on an $800 million urban design and security plan for the District yesterday that would keep Pennsylvania Avenue closed in front of the White House and perhaps eliminate hundreds of downtown parking spaces.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said parking is the one area where the city has serious issues with the proposal.

Tony Bullock, spokesman for Mr. Williams, said, "The loss of any street parking is not acceptable. We gave at the office on this one and will fight against the loss of even a single space."

The planning commission will accept public comment on the plan for the next 60 days.

"After that, we will listen to the Congress and the Bush administration and see what they will do to help us," said John V. Cogbill III, chairman of the commission.

Mr. Cogbill, who was appointed by President Bush, said the goal of the plan is to rid the city of its "hideous jersey barriers" and allow for the reopening of some streets.

"We recommended the reopening of E Street last year as an important east-west route through the city," he said.

Mr. Bullock said the city cannot afford to close another street.

The closures of E Street and Pennsylvania Avenue have diverted nearly 60,000 cars per day onto side streets around the White House.

The plan also calls for circulator buses that will ferry workers and tourists to all of the downtown federal buildings.

The proposed plan calls for replacing the concrete jersey barriers around downtown sites with more aesthetically pleasing bollards short, thick decorative poles.

Pennsylvania Avenue, which was closed by President Clinton in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing, will remain closed indefinitely for security reasons, Mr. Cogbill said.

The planning commission's interagency Security Task Force last month approved a design for a pedestrian thoroughfare featuring bollards, benches, shrubs and security checkpoints along Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.

The task force, which also proposed the urban design plan, recommended awarding the design contract to Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates of New York after having reviewed designs from four firms.

It has yet to be approved by Congress and Mr. Bush.

The planning commission devised the plan with more than 30 federal and D.C. agencies and 28 other consultants.

"We have reached out more than any other organization in trying to get the public's input on this," Mr. Cogbill said.

The plan calls for a redesign of the Federal Triangle, the National Mall, West End and downtown that would integrate streetscapes into building perimeter security.

"For instance, instead of jersey walls, we can reinforce bus stops or benches so a car can't run them over and penetrate the boundary," Mr. Cogbill said.

The study also targets Pennsylvania, Constitution, Independence and Maryland avenues and 10th Street SW for further study and potential redesign.

The commission also wants to clean up the barriers around the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials and the Washington Monument.

"The worst offense is the neck of jersey barriers around the monument. The crime is they have been there for about five years," Mr. Bullock said.

The approach is to ensure that the improvements along streets complement and enhance the character of each precinct, said task force Chairman Richard Friedman.

"Barricades don't have to be ugly," he said. "We can have both good urban design and good security. But right now we have neither."

Mr. Friedman said achieving that vision will take the support of Congress, the administration, the District and the American people, but more discussion and input will be needed before the planning commission makes its final decision in the fall.


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