Reopening Pennsylvania Ave. Mulled

Monday, September 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — It is often called ``America's Main Street,'' but for the last five years, only foot traffic has been allowed on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. That would change under a plan unveiled Monday.

Officials in the nation's capital said thousands of vehicles could drive past the White House each day without endangering the safety of the president and his family.

``We can figure a way to reclaim America's Main Street from the fear of terrorism,'' District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton told a news conference promoting a plan to reopen Pennsylvania Avenue.

President Clinton has expressed a desire to see the street reopened if security concerns can be addressed, said Norton, the district's nonvoting representative to Congress.

The Secret Service, which has responsibility for the security of the president, closed a three-block section of the thoroughfare after the April 19, 1995 truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams, other elected officials and local business leaders are hoping a $100,000 study conducted by the Rand Corporation will allay concerns.

The closure has forced about 29,000 motorists to detour each day, leading to gridlock in the city's central business district during peak travel periods.

``It involves a 15- to 20-minute additional commute,'' said Terence C. Golden, chief executive officer of Host Marriott Corporation.

The plan calls for the addition of two 60 foot-long pedestrian bridges spanning Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House grounds and Lafayette Park.

They would ``limit the size of vehicle that could actually pass in front of the White House,'' to 7.5 feet said Gary Haney, a design architect.

Guard kiosks within two blocks of the White House, more electronic surveillance equipment and signs would also enhance security.

A bend in the road would increase separation between the White House and Pennsylvania Avenue by 50 additional feet from the current 350 feet.

The proposal calls for the street to be closed between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. each night.

``I believe the Secret Service will take a look at the proposal,'' said Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., who attended the news conference.