- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The U.S. Capitol grounds will remain sled-free Thursday.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Democrat, was rebuffed in her request Wednesday that Capitol Police Board officials “have a heart” and issue a temporary waiver of the ban on sledding around the Congress for this weekend.

U.S. Capitol Police officers reportedly turned away residents who were trying to sled on the Capitol grounds following a February snowstorm, citing prohibitions implemented in the wake of 9/11.

On Wednesday, the National Weather Service predicted between 6 to 8 inches of snowfall in the D.C. region Wednesday night into Thursday afternoon.

Ms. Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative to Congress, said her office had received calls from families hoping to spend their presumed snow day sledding on what she called “one of the best hills in D.C.”

“Have a heart, Mr. Larkin — a kid’s heart, that is,” Ms. Norton said. “This could be the last snowstorm the D.C. area gets this winter, and may be one of the best for sledding in years.”

But Capitol Police Board Chairman Frank Larkin told Ms. Norton in a letter Wednesday evening that his hands were tied, citing in an 1876 regulation saying “It shall be the duty of the Capitol police … to prevent any portion of the Capitol Grounds or terraces from being used as playgrounds…”

He added that the Capitol Board “cannot grant exceptions” to this law.

In a statement late Wednesday night, Ms. Norton said she was “deeply disappointed” with the refusal “despite the spontaneous outpouring from residents, and even my colleagues in Congress, in favor of the waiver.”

She noted that the police had not enforced a sledding ban “for many years” and thus has the power “not to enforce it again during a four-day period.”

Ms. Norton wrote to Mr. Larkin last week requesting the agency do away with the sledding ban permanently and replace it with safety-based regulations. The board has until March 26 to respond to that request, likely past the point of snowfall for the District this season.

In her Wednesday night statement, Ms. Norton said she was encouraged that Mr. Larkin said the board “is continuing to review the regulations, including updates, as I requested in a prior letter.”

The National Weather Service forecasted the snowstorm will begin with rain Wednesday night and change to sleet and snow by dawn, with snowfall quickly accumulating Thursday morning and afternoon.

Local government agencies deployed their snow-removal crews Wednesday in anticipation of the storm.

The Maryland State Highway Administration said it had 2,400 pieces of equipment ready to treat roads. However, the agency said road crews would not pre-treat roads with salt because the storm was expected to start as rain, and the salt would wash away.

The District declared a snow emergency to go into effect Thursday beginning at 7 a.m. That will restrict parking on snow emergency routes to let road crews clear major streets. Vehicles parked on designated routes may be ticketed and towed.

School and government closings also were likely.

For those who still need to get around Thursday, public transportation options were expected to be reduced. Metro said that all MetroAcess paratransit service will be suspended Thursday, and bus service will be modified. Metro said it will keep buses from operating on hilly terrain and narrow streets. Some bus service will be suspended while other buses will operate with detours.

This winter, the National Weather Service so far has recorded a total of 13.5 inches of snow at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

On Tuesday, the House, followed by the Senate on Wednesday, reached rare bipartisan agreement on the desire of lawmakers to beat a forecasted snowstorm out of town.

The House resolved Tuesday to pass a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security and adjourn. The Senate concurred Wednesday, calling a vote to override President Obama’s veto of legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Senate leaders set the last vote of the week for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. But that wasn’t good enough for Sen. James M. Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican known as the chamber’s most vocal denier of man-made climate change.

“Is there any way you could change that to 2:20 from 2:30?” Mr. Inhofe asked on the Senate floor. “There are four people who can’t make planes otherwise.”

With no objection from minority Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed.

“So for the information of all senators, the vote on the veto override will occur at 2:20, and senators should be in the chamber and prepared to vote from their seats,” the Kentucky Republican announced. “This will be the last roll call vote of the week.”

The House announced a day earlier that it would be out of session Thursday and Friday in advance of a home district work session next week.

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.


• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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