- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009


The crowds waiting for a spot on the National Mall to see the swearing-in of President-elect Barack Obama began arriving at about 2 a.m. and began streaming through the checkpoints when they opened at 6 a.m.

“I knew it was going to be crowded, but I couldn’t miss this,” said Adrienn Chu, 27, of the District’s Columbia Heights neighborhood.

Mrs. Chu was among the thousands who began making their way downtown in the predawn chill. The temperature at 6 a.m. was about 20 degrees but was expected to break the freezing mark by the time the swearing-in ceremonies for Mr. Obama begins at about 10 a.m.

“It’s definitely brisk, it’s not as cold as it could be,” said Sara Greenback, 22, a student at St. Mary’s College in Maryland. “It could be worse.”

An estimated 1 million to 2 million people are expected to attend the event, which has resulted in an unprecedented security effort, including more than 30,000 police and military personnel.

Planners say attendance could easily top the 1.2 million people who were at Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1965 inauguration, the largest crowd the National Park Service has on record.

By 7 a.m., much of the Mall was filled with people and police opened the checkpoint for spots along the Inaugural parade route, ending the long lines that had formed.

Police officials said at 9 a.m. that the Mall was already filled to 14th Street Northwest — about a mile west of the swearing-in stage.

At least six suburban parking lots for the region’s subway system — the second largest in the country — were filled by 5 a.m.

Metro officials reported about 207,000 riders had used the system by about 7 a.m. on the way to break the ridership record — 854,638 in 2008.

At Union Station, a major transportation center where Amtrak and Metro train arrive at the base of Capitol Hill, riders packed the coffee shops and formed long line to buy farecards. However, they moved through the turnstiles and off the subway platforms with few delays.

Most of the city’s downtown is closed to motorists, as are in-bound bridges crossing the Potomac River from Virginia.

City and local planners have consistently warned visitors that they could expect extensive transportation delays.

Staff writers Ben Conery and Tom LoBianco contributed to this report.

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