- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2009

The warm glow cast over the region’s roads and streets by the historic inauguration events appeared officially over Wednesday as motorists honked and pounded dashboards over lingering barricades, broken water mains and yet another official motorcade.

“We woke up this morning to a new president but the old reality that we have some of the worst gridlock in the country,” said John B. Townsend II, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Motorists breezed into the District from New York Avenue in Northeast on swearing-in Tuesday, in part because of the dire warning to drive only if necessary. But on Wednesday, when life in the region was supposed to return to normal, it was a different story.

“There were few traffic problems Tuesday because there was one element eliminated — vehicles,” Mr. Townsend said.

Roadwork near Florida Avenue in Northeast and two fires off North Capitol Street had inbound traffic at about 9:30 a.m. backed up into Route 50. Those trying to leave the city on New York Avenue faced a delay at Fifth Street in Northwest, icy conditions from a broken pipe near Bladensburg Road in Northeast and construction near Kenilworth Avenue.

Freezing weather resulted in dozens of water-main breaks in the past two weeks, including five Wednesday.

A pipe broke on Inauguration Day under the Archives-Navy Memorial Metro station, but work crews had to wait until Wednesday to fix it.

Driving downtown was complicated because crews had yet to remove some of the concrete barriers that blocked off much of downtown for the swearing-in and parade for National Park Service.

All of the barriers were removed by 7 a.m., said D.C. Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

The first fire occurred at about 7:20 a.m. in a rowhouse in the 2200 block of North Capitol Street and killed a female occupant. A 14-year-old boy was rescued and was listed in critical condition.

D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said about 110 firefighters fought the blaze, which heavily damaged the home and was under investigation.

The second fire started shortly after on Randolph Place in Northwest. No injuries were reported.

Sitting in traffic for presidential motorcades is a way of life in the District, but some motorists in Northwest on Wednesday morning appeared to have had enough. Spotting police motorcycles ahead of Mr. Obama’s limousine headed to the National Cathedral, they quickly detoured off P Street.

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