- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Despite an estimate by federal authorities of a record crowd of up to 2 million for President Obama’s inauguration, an unprecedented number of Metro riders and a car crash that stalled I-95 north of Washington, transportation problems were relatively few Tuesday.

The coordinated strategy from local and national law-enforcement agencies to close down many of the highways leading into the District as well as all of the bridges across the Potomac from Virginia appeared to pay off Tuesday morning. Many roads, including the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and New York Avenue from Maryland, were clear.

By early evening, the bridges began to reopen, and D.C. and Virginia transportation officials reported very few problems.

Mike Salmon, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said some pedestrians were walking on highways after Mr. Obama’s inaugural address, but incidents were cleared and the day went better than expected.

“A lot of the citizens, thank goodness, heeded the advice to take Metro and plan accordingly,” said Metropolitan Police spokesman Junis Fletcher, who started his shift at 2 a.m.

However, many Metro stations were packed, with long delays and frustrated passengers. Metro parking lots quickly filled up.

The transit agency said 973,285 people had boarded Metrorail as of 7 p.m., setting a new record for the highest ridership day of all time. The previous mark had been set at 866,681 during Monday’s festivities.

Metro officials said some delays during the day were caused by riders who blocked doors and caused breakdowns, and the Federal Triangle station was closed unexpectedly for more than four hours due to concerns about overcrowding at the Mall.

A 68-year-old woman’s fall onto the Metro tracks at about 9:25 a.m. also snarled the subway briefly, but service resumed at 10:15 a.m. at the Chinatown and Metro Center stops.

The woman suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was treated and released at an area hospital. She was saved from an oncoming train by Houston Transit Authority police Officer Elliot Swainson, who told the woman to squeeze into the space under the Metrorail platform, the Associated Press reported.

Officer Swainson was one of hundreds of visiting law-enforcement officers who were sworn in as D.C. officers for the inauguration, a Metro spokeswoman said.

A Maryland Medevac helicopter was called to the accident on I-95 near Route 32, which closed two lanes of traffic briefly on Tuesday morning, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration’s Twitter feed.

The day was otherwise quiet, said spokespeople for Maryland, Virginia and the Inauguration Joint Information Center.

“This was a real success story, and it’s a tribute to the people of the region who really heeded the advice of the past couple of weeks,” said Maryland Department of Transportation spokesman Jack Cahalan.

The clear roads were not for lack of visitors, though: U.S. Park Police declared the Mall east of 14th Street to be at capacity at about 9 a.m.

Masses of pedestrians, as well as cars, jammed downtown roads.

Crowds spilled over into the streets near Union Station, just north of the Capitol. Vendors lining the street pushed water bottles, sports posters and belt buckles, among scores of wares bearing pictures of Mr. Obama.

• Ben Conery contributed to this report.

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