- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 9, 2004

The body of former President Ronald Reagan will arrive in the District this afternoon for the first state funeral in 31 years.

With as many as 150,000 mourners expected to view the casket in the Capitol Rotunda and dozens of world leaders coming to the official funeral on Friday, law-enforcement and government officials have been scrambling to finalize plans to keep the city and visitors safe and avoid a major transportation nightmare.

Thousands of mourners are expected to line both sides of Constitution Avenue from 16th Street to the Capitol as the casket of the “Great Communicator,” who was credited with helping defeat Soviet communism, passes by. The casket then will be taken to the Rotunda to lie in state for more than 30 hours.

After the former president’s flag-draped casket arrives at Andrews Air Force Base at 5 p.m., it will be driven into the city and transferred from a hearse to a horse-drawn caisson, a traditional two-wheeled military wagon, at 6 p.m., at the 1600th block of Constitution Avenue.

The formal procession will proceed east down Constitution Avenue between 6 and 7 p.m., a national mourning ritual not seen since 1973, when former President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s casket was escorted to the Capitol. President Nixon’s family opted out of a full state funeral in 1994.

The caisson, escorted by the Military District of Washington’s Old Guard Caisson Platoon, of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, includes six horses of the same color, three riders, a section chief on a separate horse and a riderless horse following behind, with empty boots backward in the stirrups.

Sidewalks along the parade route will be open to the general public, but police and a fence line of bike racks will protect the route. After a ceremony in the Rotunda, where Vice President Dick Cheney will speak, along with House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, and Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, to Mr. Reagan’s family and close friends, well-wishers may view the casket. Viewing hours will be from 8:30 tonight until 7 a.m. Friday, officials said yesterday.

The general public will enter the Capitol through the West entrance, and the line of those waiting to enter will extend out onto Third Street. Capitol Police said no large bags, cameras or food will be allowed through metal detectors. Officials predicted long waits during the daytime hours.

The services Friday at the Washington National Cathedral are by invitation only, and attendees will include dignitaries from around the world. President Bush will eulogize Mr. Reagan, as will his father, former President George Bush, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington; and Rabbi Harold Kushner will do readings at the funeral, which will be presided over by ordained Episcopalian minister John C. Danforth, the newly named ambassador to the United Nations and a former Republican senator from Missouri.

The Secret Service is heading up security for the event, coordinating the efforts of thousands of police and federal agents, in addition to bomb-sniffing dogs.

The body will be flown back to Simi Valley, Calif., Friday afternoon for a burial at the presidential library overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Mr. Reagan, who died at 93 on Saturday after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease, will be the 10th U.S. president to lie in state in the Rotunda. His closed casket will be placed on a three-foot high catafalque, a simple bier of pine boards, covered with black cloth, that was constructed in 1865 for the casket of President Lincoln and has been used for state funerals since then.

Metro announced yesterday that it will provide free shuttle bus service to the Capitol from RFK Stadium through the night both tonight and tomorrow.

Metro will run three 60-seat buses every 15 minutes, from 11:30 p.m. until 6 a.m. Metrorail will operate during its normal hours of 5:30 a.m. to midnight. Parking at RFK will be free and monitored by Metropolitan Police.

This afternoon’s rush hour could present area residents with the worst traffic problems of the week.

The funeral procession from Andrews Air Force Base to downtown could cause major disruptions on the east side of the city.

There is no parking on Constitution Avenue today from 16th Street to the Capitol, until 9 p.m. Constitution Avenue will shut down completely today at 3 p.m. from Henry Bacon Drive to the Capitol, including the 12th and 9th street tunnels and all other cross streets, and will reopen at 9 p.m.

Officials are strongly encouraging anyone who plans to attend the funeral procession today to take Metro, which will operate at normal capacity. The federal and city government, which will be closed Friday, will be open today, so workers are being encouraged to leave the city early or use liberal leave.

On Friday, the casket will be taken from the Capitol to Washington National Cathedral at 10:45 a.m. The funeral is scheduled to run from 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.

At the Capitol yesterday, the honor guard that will carry Mr. Reagan’s casket into the Rotunda went through a full dress rehearsal. After musical honors are played and a cannon salute is fired, they will carry the casket from the caisson up the west steps of the Capitol, followed by the Reagan family, a flag bearer and honorary pallbearers.

Tarron Lively and Frank Petrignani contributed to this report.

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