Authorities: Don't Come to National Mall Until 4 a.m. Jan. 20
Federal and District government officials urged people not to come to the National Mall until 4 a.m. on Jan. 20, the day of President-elect Barack Obama's swearing-in. Though the Mall grounds are open 24 hours a day to the public, officials said they would prefer that people wait until 4 a.m., which matched the hours that the Metro provides train service.
At a news conference today organized by the Secret Service, officials said the parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue will open at 7 a.m., and people will not be allowed to camp out overnight on that route.
People without tickets to the inaugural who intend to watch from the Mall can bring chairs, coolers, strollers, backpacks and food, the officials said. That is a more lenient rule than the rule for ticket-holders, who will get to watch from a reserved area near the Capitol, but who are not allowed to bring those items past security.
For those who will go past the security check-points "less is more," said Bill Line, spokesman for the National Park Service.
Meantime, with between 1 million and 4 million people expected for the inaugural swearing-in ceremony and parade, a crisis management subcommittee is developing a massive evacuation plan in case of an emergency, said Malcolm D. Wiley Sr. of the Secret Service. Jo'Ellen Countee, spokeswoman for the D.C. Emergency Management Agency, said the city is looking at how to notify people by loud speaker if an emergency occurs.
Wiley said there has been no official estimate that concludes there will be 4 million on the mall, even though that figure has been cited by D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). The Senate committe that is planning the swearing-in has "an internal number," Wiley said, but the figure will not be released publicly. The Secret Service, he added, is preparing for all scenarios.
Karyn LeBlanc, spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Transportation, said the agency has a pedestrian walkout plan that will shut down streets specifically for pedestrians. Some bridges and streets will also be limited to buses and emergency vehicles, LeBlanc said.
By Nikita Stewart
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