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Discussion Excerpts: Logistics, Transportation and More

Several online discussions today tackled the inauguration. Here are some excerpts from them.

Martin Bond, spokesman for event planning company Hargrove, Inc., which is managing the parade, the official balls and other events:

Arlington, Va.: Which ball are you most looking forward to? If I can only attend one, which would you recommend?

Marvin Bond: Well, I think the one that, this might be a surprise, but the one that tends to be the most emotional for me is the one they call the CIC ball, which is primarily attended by enlisted military folks. There's a certain element of that ball that is very very emotional and very very interesting. There was a photo in the post in 2005 of the Bushes dancing on a carpet Hargrove made, and they were dancing with a different enlisted person. It's just a different thing that the typical black-tie ball most people think of.

Thin blue line: John Kelly commented on the blue line painted down the middle of Penn Ave. I didn't think anyone would take a wrong turn off the parade route but instead thought it was a centering marker.

Isn't there a line for floats in parades like the Rose Parade where drivers can't really see all that much in front of them?

Marvin Bond:
Typically you handle that in actuality with guides, people who walk along side the floats and drivers, with their limited vision, focus on them.

With some parades the center line is important, but it's less important for the floats than for other units -- marching units, equestrian units, whatever.

Washington Post Metro columnist Marc Fisher, who provides some much-sought-after information about bridge closures:

Washington, D.C.: I've heard a lot about bridge closures for inbound traffic -- what about for outbound traffic? Will at least one lane be open on each bridge to get out of the city if need be?

Marc Fisher: Some bridges are being held entirely for security authorities and buses, but others will have outbound lanes remaining open. City administrator Dan Tangherlini told me that he hopes to maintain open outbound lanes throughout the day and may be able to open some lanes to inbound traffic during the day, depending on how thick the backup is into Arlington.

Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Marc -- on my way into work this morning, I was surprised to see that there are still newspaper boxes at 10th and Pennsylvania. Not that I'm encouraging this sort of thing, but usually these things are removed before an inaugural parade and should have been long gone by now. Any idea why they're still there?

Marc Fisher: They'll all be removed in plenty of time for the parade. I believe it's more than 1,000 news boxes that the Post and other publications have to remove in the next few days.

Fairfax, Va.: Do you seriously think the authorities can handle this, after that press conference you just covered with Fenty, Lanier, et al.? SERIOUSLY? Sorry, but from what I've seen just this week with nonexistent police to direct the traffic overflows on K street, color me unconvinced. And no, Cathy Lanier and Terry Gainer don't reassure me in the least.

Marc Fisher: To the extent that a crowd of more than a million people can be "handled," yes, it's really not rocket science. The District manages massive crowds on a fairly regular basis, whether it's the various marches for and against abortion, the so-called Million Man March, the 4th of July fireworks crowds--all in the several hundred thousands range, and all managed without much fuss or trouble, year after year.

McLean, Va.: Will Chain Bridge be open? I understand them wanting to cut off the route to Georgetown but why cut off access to upper NW D.C.?

Marc Fisher: No, both Key and Chain bridges will be closed to cars on Tuesday, which is really quite unfortunate and demonstrates that these decisions are based more on different political and managerial styles than on any hard science. Nobody's closing the Anacostia River crossings, yet all of the Potomac River bridges are to be shut down. The official reason for the distinction is that Marylanders have other ways to get into the city and therefore the press of traffic on those Anacostia bridges isn't likely to be as bad as on the west side of the city. Maybe, but the fact is that the Key and Chain bridges don't empty into the city's center and really could have been left open rather than funneling everyone up to the Beltway and the American Legion bridge -- a prospect that Gov. O'Malley seemed rather unhappy about.

Washington, D.C.: When are they really going to get roads re-opened? Will people be able to get to work Wednesday morning?

Marc Fisher: Most roads and bridges will reopen Tuesday evening. The only question for Wednesday morning is Pennsylvania Avenue, because the entire streetscape has to be reconstructed. They literally take out the street lamps for the parade, so all of that has to be reinstalled before the Wednesday morning rush hour, and the city administrator told me he thinks they can get it done, but they won't know for sure until the actual event.

Washington, D.C.: This inauguration will clearly be the most expensive of all time for the American taxpayer. Why hasn't Obama considered toning down the festivities in light of the dire situation we have with the economy.

The fewer events you hold, the less security needed.

Marc Fisher: The official events are no more numerous than in past years--a couple of concerts, the swearing-in, the parade and the balls. It's all the ancillary stuff, all of it put on by private organizations, that is making this bigger than past inaugurations, and that's not something the presidential inaugural committee has any control over.

Washington, D.C.: Logistics question for you Marc: I just, for the first time, looked at the calendar of the events over the next week and -- HOLY CATS! How in the heck can the Post cover all this? Do you guys have a strategy for attacking this beast?

Marc Fisher: More than 100 reporters, fanning out all over the dang place. We cannot cover everything, but we want to be where the main events are, and in enough other places to get a sense of how the events are going, how security, congestion, and the mood of the crowds are developing, and so on. I'll be roaming around all weekend and into next week and will report in columns every day as well as on the Raw Fisher blog.

Lon Anderson, Director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic:

Alexandria, Va.: While there is no doubt that various road/bridge closures would be needed for this large scale event, I still have to wonder why clearly excessive rules have to be applied. This is unfortunately becoming the norm in D.C. and perhaps all over the country. And I wonder what the real intent is.

I first starting wondering about this kind of thing when I saw the security perimeter that grew around the Capitol after 9/11. Anyone familiar with that neighborhood has realized that the large "security" perimeter has more to do with making parking available to Congress and its staff than any security threat.

Lon Anderson: Hey Alexandria--We wonder--and worry-- about the same things. The road closure lists for the Inauagural now run to several pages long--in small type! We have been urging more of a balance--not compromises that would endanger our President -elect or other participants, but it certainly does seem heavy handed. Remember the closing of Peensylvania Avenue in the middle of the night unannounced to City leaders or Metrobus drivers? That road carried 29,000 vehicles a day. Perhaps it ultimately needed to be closed for the safety of the President, but the way it was done, was certainly heavy handed. Continued expansion of security zones around the Capitol and other federal buildings does hamper mobility here, no doubt. Great comment and observations!

Baltimore, Md.: I am set to have a house full of guests on Monday night -- but they have not planned all that well for their transportation into D.C. They do have a place to park in Silver Spring, however. My question is this: will they be able to get on the Metro at Silver Spring, or will the cars be packed to capacity at any location past the final stop?

Lon Anderson: Hey Baltimore--The Silver Spring Metro is a great choice because some of the trains originate there. Parking there will be tough, though. Metro is opening its lots at 3 a.m. and expects many to be full by 6 a.m. Haivng some one drop you off might be the wiser course. Please look at the websites and have your guests get educated beforehand. This is really going to be challenging! Good luck.

Alexandria, Va.: I am going to an event on Sunday night that lasts till 1:00 a.m. Any chance Metro is going to extend their hours on Sunday? If not, any suggestions on how I can get back to Virginia? Is it going to be hard for me to get a taxi that late on a Sunday to drive me back to Virginia? Thanks for your help!

Lon Anderson: Hello Alexandria--You are out of luck with Metro. I heard their CEO say this morning that service will end at midnight on Sunday because they ahve to ahve a few hours for maintenance before its biggest crowds in history. A cab is your best bet home. Sorry.

Speaking of mobility...: ...what accomodations are being made for people who use wheelchairs, or elderly (or not so old) folks who may not have the stamina to stand for hours on end in the cold weather?

Lon Anderson: Hello Speaking of Mobility--this event is going to try the hardiest of souls. The event Committee is advising elderly and those with small children to consider not coming. Many hours of standing will be required. It will be many hours in temperatures predicted to be in the 30's. This is not for the faint of heart, and has not been planned to be easy on anyone. And it won't be. Sorry!

By Christopher Dean Hopkins  |  January 15, 2009; 2:26 PM ET  | Category:  Answers
Previous: Who Can Use the Virginia Bridges? Here's Who... | Next: Talent Lineup Released for Official Balls

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