- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2005

Questions of security have been largely ignored in debates over a new baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals, which sits amid several sites considered high-profile targets for potential terrorist attacks.

The D.C. Council is expected to vote tomorrow on a final lease agreement for the proposed facility near the mouth of the Anacostia River, adjacent to South Capitol Street in Southeast at the Frederick Douglass Bridge.

Just 10 blocks south of the Capitol, the stadium site is ringed by three high-security complexes: the headquarters of the Army Military District of Washington at Fort Lesley J. McNair; the Naval District of Washington, comprising the Navy Yard and the Marine Corps Barracks; and the Air Force District at Bolling Air Force Base, with an annex just across the bridge.

Each military district has its own police force, and the Capitol is guarded by the U.S. Capitol Police. Add to those forces the Metro Transit Police who guard the Navy Yard Metro Station.

Security coordination at the stadium will be a must, said D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Mark Touhey, chairman of the city’s sports commission in a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

“Major League Baseball will be in charge of the stadium, and we would be responsible for the surrounding area,” Mr. Williams said, referring to the Metropolitan Police Department. “I think, if you look in general at the aftermath of 9/11 … the District has been better in many respects that other jurisdictions with interoperability of all of our people.”

Mr. Touhey said coordination of security is a “serious issue,” adding that the city has been discussing the issue with the Department of Homeland Security. The current proposed site is less security-sensitive than some previously discussed stadium locations, he said.

“Let me tell you the expression on the face of Michael Chertoff when we talked about the possibility of building a stadium over [I-395] across from L’Enfant Plaza,” Mr. Touhey said, imitating the shocked look on the secretary’s face. “Homeland Security is on top of this, and they realize it has to be done in a way so we don’t have Keystone Kops.”

Mr. Touhey said a task force will be convened to create an overall “security systems plan” and said logistics will be critical — along with determining who will have overall authority in the area.

Security for the proposed stadium site would also be of interest to the U.S. Secret Service, because South Capitol Street is part of the agency’s preferred route from Andrews Air Force Base to the Capitol and the White House.

“The Secret Service has historically been better than Capitol Police in letting us know when they’re going to do things; now they sometimes let us know too [late], not a lot of time,” Mr. Williams said. “Like when we had the Christmas Tree lighting and, Lord have mercy, they shut down 15th Street, we had traffic backed up all the way to Nebraska.”

Recent events show just how troublesome security and traffic management can be in that part of town.

On Oct. 30, South Capitol Street traffic was stalled for more than an hour as the body of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks was transported to the Capitol.

On May 11, Capitol Police gave no warnings of their closings of Independence and Constitution avenues along with other streets adjacent to the Capitol when the building was evacuated because of an unauthorized breach of city airspace by a commercial plane. A similar incident occurred June 29 with slightly more coordination, but not much, said city officials.

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