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The Folly of Inauguration Island

Inauguration madness has hit a new and disturbing peak with the Secret Service's effort to turn Washington into Inauguration Island, cutting the District off from as much of the outside world as possible on Jan. 20.

Virginians will bear the brunt of the over-the-top restrictions, as every single Potomac River crossing inside the Beltway is shut down to vehicular traffic for the entire day. Originally, the feds wanted to restrict even pedestrians to the Memorial Bridge, but under pressure from outraged Virginia residents and Reps. Jim Moran and Gerry Connolly, the authorities backed off on that part of the blockade. Still, they're not just closing the bridges to cars, they're even blockading the highways--vast stretches of the GW Parkway and I-395 will be closed, along with a preposterously long list of other closings.

If Inauguration Day were some kind of holiday, the road closings would be awful enough--another sign of a reckless security apparatus extending its elbows simply because it can. But in fact, that day is one on which many thousands of commuters must go to work, in addition to the hundreds of thousands and perhaps more who will be coming into the city to attend the inaugural festivities and ceremonies. And the only message from the authorities is, hey, take Metro, even as the very same officials warn that the transit system is almost certain to be wildly overrun.

Why cut off Virginians' access to Washington, but not Maryland's? What is so frightening about the bridges over the Potomac that is not true of the major bridges, avenues and highways that bring Maryland drivers in over the Anacostia River and along land routes from Montgomery and Prince George's counties? The issue cannot be proximity to the Mall and the federal enclave, because they're not just shutting down the Memorial, 14th Street and Teddy Roosevelt bridges, but also the Key and Chain bridges, which are farther from the District's core than are some of the bridges from Maryland.

Moran and Connolly, in their letter of protest to the Secret Service, called the closings "a needless restriction." And the AAA's local chief, Lon Anderson, put it this way: "I think the last time the bridges were closed like this, Lincoln was president and was worried about an invasion by General Lee."

The other day, I asked Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine whether the closings were a result of security or congestion concerns, and he immediately said the issue was traffic and the utter gridlock that would result if, for example, people got terribly backed up and frustrated and even abandoned their vehicles on or near the bridges.

Later that day, the governor called back to clarify that security is indeed a piece of the rationale: "We're not closing them because of a worry about a bomb coming in or something like that so much. But there is a public safety component. We predicted that if we did not close the bridges, there would just be an immediate lockdown because of the congestion; it would just gridlock up. And then we would not be able to move emergency vehicles if there was some public safety emergency. So there was a public safety component in that regard."

That of course is a legitimate concern, but couldn't the objective of keeping a path clear for emergency vehicles be met by reserving a lane entirely for official vehicles, or even closing just one bridge?

Virginians may be excused for wondering just what it is they did to deserve this. After all, they just voted for a Democrat for president for the first time in 44 years, and what do they get for it--a virtual blockade against northern Virginians who might want to celebrate Barack Obama's election, or, heaven forbid, get to work that day.

And, another special gift, the removal of their governor as a full-time leader. Just as Virginia's legislature comes into session to try to cope with the worst financial crisis the state has had in decades, Gov. Kaine gets appointed to head the Democratic National Committee, a job he claims he can handle out of his back pocket for his last year in office in Richmond. Whatever your partisan leanings, surely nobody buys that one.

Kaine is a talented and conscientious guy, and I have no doubt he will put his Virginia duties first, but is this the right signal to send to a state whose citizens are struggling and worried? And while his appointment may be good for Democrats nationally, doesn't it threaten to hurt them in Virginia, where the opposition will happily use Kaine's DNC role as a way to bash the Democrat who is chosen to run for governor this year?

These are obviously not intentional slights of Virginia, but they sure add up to extra headaches for a state that pivoted rather sharply on behalf of the incoming administration.

(The Virginian Pilot in Hampton Roads at least had the good humor to assure its readers that plucky Virginians will prevail in this match against the security-obsessive authorities: "If George Washington could cross the icy Delaware River, his fellow Virginians surely won't flinch at the thought of a brisk trip through Maryland or across the Potomac. Bring your oars, your tricorn hats and your coolers, citizens. We're going in.")

But wait--it's just possible that northern Virginians won't win the prize for most disrupted populace on Inauguration Day. Vast stretches of the District, including many residential neighborhoods outside of the federal core, have been declared bus-only zones on Inauguration Day. In huge swaths of the city, in places such as Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Capitol Hill, and virtually all of Southwest Washington, residents will be banned from parking their cars on the streets where they live. What exactly those residents are supposed to do with their cars is unknown. The city government and the Secret Service apparently live under the delusion that the entire population of Washington is rich enough to afford off-street parking and just happen to use curbside parking because they enjoy getting the occasional ticket from the District. The government has announced no plan of any kind for D.C. residents to put their cars somewhere to make way for buses.

The keyword in all this is arrogance--only a government obsessed with security and blind to the realities of city life could issue a plan like this, one that requires workers to perform miracles to get to offices and shops that will be open for business as usual, and for especially long hours, to serve huge crowds of people who will need food, shelter and whatnot that day. In a real city, one that is permitted to govern itself, the government would feel the pressure from the people who need to be able to use their city, and this level of arrogance from a federal bureaucracy that considers Washington to be its plaything, rather than a place where people work and live, would be impossible.

By Marc Fisher |  January 12, 2009; 8:01 AM ET
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Spot on.

Posted by: gth1 | January 12, 2009 9:02 AM

Yes, you are correct. Why are we treating Obama any different than we have any other president getting inaugurated? We never had these restrictions before. Bush had to put up with a lot hecklers and general trash making their way to the inauguration. Why should Obama be spared that?

Posted by: JohnSmith7 | January 12, 2009 9:14 AM

I can understand making the bridge closings complete once they start. Key and Chain Bridges can't handle the kind of traffic they would get with the Memorial and 14 Street Bridges closed, nor are the roadways on either side capable of handling that kind of throughput. It's easy to say "oh, they could keep Chain Bridge open" but that's a little tiny bridge with barely more than residential streets on either side of it. The backups would be hellacious to the point of...well, being pointless.

Posted by: thurdl01 | January 12, 2009 9:18 AM

It is the inconsistency of security that is so maddening. They are not screening people coming into the mall, and hence a bomber can wholly disrupt the whole thing with something in the crowd. It is like the airports where they make life miserable for passengers where the danger is virtually nil (would you go up the aisle with a knife or knitting needles (!) and expect any possibility of survival?) and have minimal security in the holds where things are possible. But at least there are air marshalls on Blue Jet flights going to Orlando where the passengers are especially dangerous.

Posted by: jhough1 | January 12, 2009 9:34 AM

Do you seriously want to drive into town on Jan 20 -- alongside everyone coming from as far Key West who Googled directions that tell them to cross the 14th Street Bridge?

Closing the bridges just makes sense.

Posted by: gettingdizzy1 | January 12, 2009 9:37 AM

My favorite, though, is that they will not let bottles of liquor in hand luggage from Caribbean tours when they can check seals in hand luggage, but allow (even force)you to put them in luggage where the checks are minimal. They don't and can't take luggage off planes when people miss connections.

We lose 4000 people a month on the highways, far more than on 9-11, and we don't save thousands of lives by reducing speed limits to 25 or 35. But the danger to a few hundred on a plane costs enormous sums of money and inconvenience.

Posted by: jhough1 | January 12, 2009 9:45 AM

Hey, what better way for the outgoing administration to rain on Obama's parade and punish Virginia for voting "wrong" than to make it as frustrating as possible to attend this historic celebration? We must keep ourselves safe from terrier attacks at all costs!

Posted by: n_mcguire | January 12, 2009 9:50 AM

Atta boy, Marc! My true delight will be when a foot of snow falls in the wee hours of the 20th and the mercury settle around 10F... the ceremony will move indoors, and all of the buffoonery will be for naught.

Posted by: bigolpoofter | January 12, 2009 9:53 AM

It would be nice to think that when our young mayor took Obama to Ben's Chili Bowl he also introduced him to some of the realities of real people's lives here -- but his desire to become a national figure is so strong I doubt it: can anyone cite an occasion when Fenty has spoken up for DC residents against Feds or the Hill?

Posted by: esthermiriam | January 12, 2009 9:58 AM

I don't get what the big deal is. Where do these people think they would park anyway? Besides the fact that there will be at least hundreds of thousands of extra people staying in the district, many bringing cars that need to be parked somewhere, there are thousands of district residents who cannot park their cars where they normally do due to street closures, so they will be taking up "available" parking elsewhere.

Posted by: anonymous55 | January 12, 2009 10:12 AM

Another good column but I want to point out why the closings of 395 and the GW Parkway are important. Think about what would happen if both (or either) were open and normal traffic or even an accident occurred that resulted in the roadway being blocked. All of the sudden emergency personel might not be able to get into/out of the city. Furthermore you need those roadways closed at their main entry points (495) to avoid additional choking on local roadways leading to Virgina METRO stations. I think the security is way over the top but the Highway closings do make sense in light of the bridge closings.

Posted by: deltaxi | January 12, 2009 10:13 AM

They have never closed bridges for an inauguration before, not even the last one, where supposedly security concerns were even greater. So what are they really worried about? The only thing different about this one is the number of people projected to attend.

-- If millions of people really do go downtown, crowd stampedes and trampling incidents are the greatest threat. If you have millions of people packed like sardines and something happens to start people pushing (for example fireworks), tens of thousands could be trampled to death.

-- If there is a massive trampling incident on the mall or in a metro station, they will want to be able to move thousands of ambulances in and out of the city without parked cars in the way. And yes, frustrated people in the DC area WILL park their cars on highways and walk if they can't go anywhere and want to be at the inauguration. It has happened before.

-- The massive restrictions may discourage people from coming at all, which will reduct the threat of a trampling incident.

Posted by: andrewp111 | January 12, 2009 10:51 AM

deltaxi said: "Furthermore you need those roadways closed at their main entry points (495) to avoid additional choking on local roadways leading to Virgina METRO stations."

And go where else instead? To a different exit off the beltway and THEN to find the way back to the local roadways leading to Virginia METRO stations, which we are being advised to use as our only travel alternative from VA into the District? I don't see the logic here, unless the message is "If you live outside the beltway, you should not try to come here."

And what about LOCAL travel inside the beltway? I395, I66 and the GW Parkway are not only commuter roads; those of us who live inside the beltway also use them for local travel and commuting. Plenty of people still have to work on Inauguration Day; I'm lucky not to be one of them, but I would sure be dreading the commute if I was. Seems like the message to all NoVa for the 21st is skip work, stay home, and don't leave your house. I wanted SO much to go witness history with this inauguration, but every day the news gives me more reason to stay home and watch TV.

Posted by: PQSully | January 12, 2009 10:58 AM

It doesn't take too much gray matter to recognize the stupidity of these measures. The real trick is to figure out how to stop it. It seems that every time there is any large crowd situation the level of security is ratcheted up even more. When does it end? After 9/11 we heard that the intelligence community had to devote more resources to anticipating new terror threats and implementing countermeasures. It seems to me that this exercise has taken on a life of its own. Does anyone have the authority or guts to stand up and say STOP? If not, at the next inauguration they may move the no car perimeter to the outer VA and MD borders.

Posted by: Cossackathon | January 12, 2009 11:20 AM

Does anyone have the authority or guts to stand up and say STOP? If not, at the next inauguration they may move the no car perimeter to the outer VA and MD borders.

Posted by: Cossackathon | January 12, 2009 11:20 AM

You nailed it. Too few in authority care and even fewer have the guts to push back.

The security officials are going to be judged on whether anything happens, so they are understandably biased to do EVERYTHING and ANYTHING possible to keep something from happen (except making the millions on the Mall going through any kind of security -- oooops!).

I'm now worrying if the Capitol Hill residential neighborhoods are going to be part of this BUS PARKING ONLY regime. I live near Union Station in northeast.

I'd be forced to leave town with my car if I can't park it on the street.

Posted by: Gidgmom | January 12, 2009 11:38 AM

Anyone know if I can run a water taxi between Old Town and the docks near L'Enfant plaza without having to get a bunch of permits?

Posted by: reston75 | January 12, 2009 11:52 AM





Posted by: bs2004 | January 12, 2009 11:52 AM

Which should I believe of Mr. Fisher above where he wrote that "In huge swaths of the city, in places such as Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Capitol Hill, and virtually all of Southwest Washington, residents will be banned from parking their cars on the streets where they live" or the map the Post has at which claims that in the areas designated for charter bus parking, no charter buses will be parked in front of residences?

Posted by: jontorrance | January 12, 2009 11:56 AM

jontorrance--not sure what the confusion is. On the WaPo map, it says that cars parked in the charter bus zone will get towed.

Posted by: Katya2 | January 12, 2009 12:14 PM

Jontorrance wrote:

Which should I believe of Mr. Fisher above where he wrote that "In huge swaths of the city, in places such as Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Capitol Hill, and virtually all of Southwest Washington, residents will be banned from parking their cars on the streets where they live" or the map the Post has at which claims that in the areas designated for charter bus parking, no charter buses will be parked in front of residences?

If you live in those areas, I would move my car because that same site says that any personal vehicles parked in the areas zoned for buses will be towed. It doesn't distinguish when it comes to cars that might be parked in front of residences. And when was the last time you knew all bus drivers to follow the rules to the letter and never park inappropriately? Given the fact that all of this will be left up to individuals to interpret, your odds of being towed are high. This weekend during the dress rehearsal streets were closed that the city didn't know were going to be closed. And, big surprise, no one knows exactly who gave the command to close the streets since no one would accept responsibility for it. And that was for one little rehearsal. What does that tell you about how things will go during the real event?

Posted by: singlemom | January 12, 2009 12:20 PM

Yes, but it also states, and I quoted it, that the charter buses will not be parked in front of residences. If the charter buses aren't going to be parked in front of residences, I think it logically follows that the charter buses won't be parking on the streets where people live and that the parking spaces on those streets will be available for residents to use. After all, if they really are going to tow all private vehicles in on street parking spaces on residential streets, why would they then refrain from parking charter buses in those spaces?

Posted by: jontorrance | January 12, 2009 12:24 PM

The restriction bothering me is the ban on all but the smallest bags. I brought a backpack to each of the last three inaugural parades. In it, I carry my SLR camera, water, and food. A bag is necessary for someone who will be out all day. To ban them is unreasonable.

Posted by: pkalina | January 12, 2009 12:33 PM

Another reason spectators need a bag is to carry extra layers of clothing. It will be cold standing outside all day.

Posted by: pkalina | January 12, 2009 12:38 PM

"Yes, but it also states, and I quoted it, that the charter buses will not be parked in front of residences. If the charter buses aren't going to be parked in front of residences, I think it logically follows that the charter buses won't be parking on the streets where people live and that the parking spaces on those streets will be available for residents to use."

It says single family residences, and I've spent DAYS now trying to get someone to define this for me, to no avail. (Seriously, one person assured me rowhouses would meet this definition, one said "absolutely not," and another went huh?) Just remember, no one cares that you actually live there; its all about making it easier for Joe Sixpack and Suzie Housecoat from Middle of Nowhere, North Dakota to see the innauguration, residents of DC be darned.

I have no clue where I'm going to move my car to that isn't a) making it atempting target for someone to steal; b) costing my a fortune to keep it garaged for several days; c)somewhere near a metro so, you know, I can go home afterwards and return to pick it up.

Posted by: RedBirdie | January 12, 2009 12:55 PM

I understand that more people are expected for this inauguration than ever in history. But the "security" planners have clearly gone over the top in a couple of places: closing Key and Chain bridges to traffic, banning pedestrians from closed bridges, prohibiting backpacks or other bags from the parade route, extending their "security" zone way beyond the monumental core where the festivities will take place.

I do give them credit, however, for deciding not to attempt security checks for the non-ticketed, non-parade route areas.

I'll be taking the bus from Virginia and will watch on a Jumbotron, but I probably won't be able to see the parade because of the bag restrictions (camera, snacks, water, extra clothes).

But let's face it, folks. It makes no sense at all to have an all day outdoor event in the middle of January.

Posted by: LadyWesley | January 12, 2009 1:06 PM


I'm not sure where it says "single family residences" but I'll take your word for it and the runaround you've gotten certainly sounds dreary. That said, is there any reason why you shouldn't trust the list of streets on which they'll be parking the charter buses posted at Granted, the list may yet change and that still leaves you with the problem of competing for the remaining spaces with others who get displaced from their usual spaces by the charter buses, but shouldn't that, at least in theory, tell you whether your car will be okay parked on a particular block?

Posted by: jontorrance | January 12, 2009 1:14 PM

Calm down. This is only one day. Yes, it's a royal PITA, but it's brief. You people act like you're going to be under siege for weeks.

Living in Washington means regularly being inconvenienced for protests, motorcades, hordes of tourists who can't comprehend "stand to the right, walk to the left" and once every four years, the inauguration.

Posted by: fonkyou | January 12, 2009 1:24 PM

Ah, yes. A Classic Marc column. You spend 14 paragraphs pretending to be concerned with the ability of Virginians to gain access to the Inauguration and then in the final paragraph you disclose your real agenda: home rule by a dysfunctional and incompetent DC government should trump decisions made by Federal authorities. What's the matter, Marc? Are you upset that the Federal government wants to borrow the Federal City for a few hours to conduct a Federal change of government?

I would love to see Kathy Lanier and her Key Stone Cops completely in charge of planning and conducting the traffic and security arrangements for the Inauguration. From a great distance on TV, of course.

Posted by: hisroc | January 12, 2009 2:06 PM

So, while the entire DC Police Department is protecting the Inauguration, who will be protecting everyone else.

If I were planning to rob a bank (I am not), this would be the perfect day.

Posted by: CubsFan | January 12, 2009 2:15 PM

If we can't hold a ceremony without virtually shutting down an entire city and making it next to impossible for people to get to their jobs and their sources of livlihood, then we either shouldn't hold the ceremony at all, or we should make changes in the venue so that we can have adequate security without turning the city upside down.

Posted by: sonny2 | January 12, 2009 2:24 PM

jontorrance, thank you for that link. One of the things I have found particularly frustrating is an inability to have ALL of the information in one place. There must be 20 difefrent websites out there with varying degrees and bits of information.

anyoen else who lives in the charter bus zone, FYI. There's severe restrictions on accessing the neighborhoods. You must pass through one of the following checkpoints:
6th Street, NW at Indiana Avenue, NW
8th Street, NW at F Street, NW
13th Street, NW at I Street, NW
E Street, NW at 18th Street, NW
14th Street, NW north of Independence Avenue, SW
Independence Ave, SW east of 14th Street, SW

Whole swaths of SW and SE are being restricted, and yet no entry points in SE, and only one in SW (I don't consider the 14th street checkpoint in NW real useful)

Posted by: RedBirdie | January 12, 2009 3:19 PM

If I lived in a part of DC where I was forced to move my vehicle out of town and went outside to find tour buses parked in front of my residence, I'd have to charge up the cordless drill and break out a couple of packs of deck screws.

Posted by: angelos_peter | January 12, 2009 3:35 PM

With all the bridges closed, how will your waaaaaambulance get through to DC?

Very easy to complain and not suggest any solutions to legitimate congestion/security concerns.

For example ...

How about: If you live in DC and need to park your car, the district should offer a one-day pass where people who live in the affected area can park anywhere in DC regardless of which zone their sticker is in.

I sat in traffic for 45 minutes today trying to get 2 miles from Mt. Pleasant to the 14th Street Bridge ... I can't even imagine what the situation would be like next Tuesday without reasonable restrictions ...

Posted by: JMac2 | January 12, 2009 4:13 PM

Marc, you're looking for a story that isn't there.

There is a reason the bridges are closed from Virginia and not Maryland. First, there are no bridges 'from' Maryland into the District.

Secondly, more Virginians drive on the average day than Marylanders. And the Virginians will, if able, grab their cars and wind up in a parking lot on a bridge leading into the District.

It's not politics. It's common sense.

As for our family, we'll be walking. You see, we were smart enough to understand that the extra cost of living in the city (District of Columbia) outweighs the cost of 3 automobiles in the driveway.

In other words, think like a pedestrian and don't just quote Triple-A. And get out and walk a bit, would you?

Posted by: CaptainJohn2525 | January 12, 2009 4:16 PM

The backpacks/food/water restrictions are only for people with tickets to an event. For example: you have tickets to the swearing in or you have tickets to sit in the bleachers on the parade route. Since most people do not have tickets the majority of those restrictions won't affect the rest of us. Am I mistaken with this? Also, does this mean you are okay in the charter bus zone if you are parked off the street?

Posted by: ROEL8021 | January 12, 2009 4:19 PM


Based on the Post's Inauguration FAQ, I don't think you have that quite right in that the restrictions on large bags and coolers/thermoses/glass bottles, at least, will apply to everyone lining the parade route, not just to those with tickets to sit in the bleachers.

BTW, you're welcome RedBirdie and I agree completely that one of the biggest failures of the planners so far lies in communicating their plans clearly.

Posted by: jontorrance | January 12, 2009 4:39 PM

I think that geography makes the reasons for the restrictions obvious. There are four, count them, four bridges from NoVa into DC. There are dozens of streets going from Maryland.

I have a feeling that the major arteries from Maryland into the District will have a distinct parking lot feel to them. So, the Secret Services isn't doing Marylanders any favors.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 12, 2009 4:52 PM

Because MLK day is a holiday all trash and recycling pick-up in my Capitol Hill neighborhood has been moved to Tuesday. I am going to be watching with interest and amusement to see if the trash trucks even try to do their rounds. Who knows - all these road closures, security zones and everyone leaving town to spare themselves the cost of a parking ticket may make the trash pickup even easier!

Seriously, the security on this thing is completely over the top. Someone needs to say enough is enough.

Glad to be hunkering down, working from home and watching it all on HD.

Posted by: jpostonday | January 12, 2009 5:01 PM

Does anyone know what time on Jan. 20th that the bridge restrictions will be lifted? The announcements are pretty silent on that....

Posted by: davidfairfax | January 12, 2009 5:23 PM


The bridge restrictions on January 20th are slated to be lifted at 7pm. As you would have seen if you'd looked at the Post's Inauguration Transportation Map (

Posted by: jontorrance | January 12, 2009 5:46 PM

CaptainJohn2525 said:

"...more Virginians drive on the average day than Marylanders. And the Virginians will, if able, grab their cars and wind up in a parking lot on a bridge leading into the District."

Um - where can I see the numbers on that? 'Cause, you know, the 270 spur is just never congested ;)

It's not the bridge-crossings per se - it's the closures of 395, 66 and the GW Parkway inside the Beltway - it's insane. Especially when you consider that National Airport will have to filter out to Route 1 over that wee little overpass.

If they were concerned with traffic flow, they could have cut off both 66 and 395 at Glebe, perhaps. That would have let people drive into the Metro and shuttle bus stops.

And hey - DC people are more screwed than Virginia people. If they live in DC and work in Virginia, it's gonna take 'em two days to get home!

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | January 12, 2009 5:56 PM

Why can't they do the "changing of the guard" on a Saturday or Sunday. The impact for residents would be much less severe.

As a 3rd generation Washingtonian there have been many disruptions in day to day life over the years, but this one is just plain overkill. I live in the Virginia suburbs and work in the Virginia suburbs and will not be able to use my normal route because they are closing so many highways. Ridiculous!! Yes it is only one day, but some of us do need to make a living.

Whoever said the Terrorist Have Won is so right!

Well the man did run on a CHANGE platform, guess this is just the beginning. Don't think he ever said it would be change for the better.

Posted by: auntsue54 | January 12, 2009 6:19 PM

With all of the roads closed and parking minimal, why would anyone go to the inauguration? Just stay home, watch it on the telly and drink beer - or wine.

Posted by: PalmSpringsGirl | January 12, 2009 7:30 PM


Posted by: hisroc | January 12, 2009 7:57 PM

Given the last eight years, this is a remarkably bad foot for the new administration to get off on. I was as delighted as anyone to see Obama win. But this takes the bloom off the rose before it even opens.

Posted by: allen_stairs | January 12, 2009 10:00 PM

How can the prohibition on parking in ones own neighborhood for the benefit of private corporations (charter buses) be kosher? it's one thing to close the roads to traffic for security reasons but to force people to move their cars (in many cases) to another state and pay for parking for a non-public purpose (accommodating charter buses) has got to have some sort of takings clause implications.

the security measures are way over the top. but as usual nobody cares about us peons who actually live here.

Posted by: PindarPushkin | January 12, 2009 11:11 PM

PindarPushkin wrote:

the security measures are way over the top. but as usual nobody cares about us peons who actually live here.

Especially not our city council members. They've thrown us under the bus (so to speak) as much as the Secret Service and the feds.

Posted by: tango1 | January 12, 2009 11:37 PM

Security officals will announce January 17 that the amount of oxygen available in downtown DC will be drastically reduced on January 20. A new prototype technology developed by the CIA (with the assistance of the Bush administration's EPA ) known as "O2-AWAY" will be tested for the first time on a large scale.

The Secret Service noted that oxygen is a critical element of explosives and fire, thereby limiting its availability should prove to further reduce threats. When asked how spectators could be expected to cope with lower oxygen levels, officals said that they had not really given it much thought.

Posted by: merganser | January 13, 2009 12:26 AM

cubsfan: If I were planning to rob a bank (I am not), this would be the perfect day.

I work at a bank. Our downtown offices will be closed. I bet others will be, too.

Posted by: didnik | January 13, 2009 1:10 AM

I am getting increasingly frustrated with the plan as well. I didn't have a problem at first with the bridge closings (the bridge system barely functions adequately on a 'regular' day for Pete's sake) - anyone trying to drive into DC that day is probably not playing with a full deck. My two main issues are as follows:

1) Closing 395 FROM THE BELTWAY! This is utter ridiculousness. So now someone living in Woodbridge and who works in say, Arlington, has their commute completely disruputed. This is unheard of. I was planning on going to a neighborhood 'ball' on the 20th since I have given up on DC, but since my sitter lives in Arlington (up 395 from me), she now can't come because she is afraid of getting home. Okay, so I have to miss a party - big deal - but you know what, I worked hard on the Obama campaign, and I am kind of PO'ed about it. But, more importantly, what about the healthcare workers and people with critical jobs that need to get where they need to go in VA (not even DC) via 395. Ridiculous.

2) At some point a 'plan' should include alternatives for getting to work (or even the inauguration if you choose). Will they be running shuttle buses from the Pentagon or Pentagon City or some other location like that? Oh never mind, you can't get to Pentagon (see item 1 above).

Thanks for listening!

Posted by: jak2 | January 13, 2009 1:52 AM

There's a really easy way to get downtown -- ride a bike. Leave it WABA's free inauguration bike valet and walk the last few blocks.

Posted by: webg | January 13, 2009 3:21 AM

I agree this whole SECURITY OVERKILLl takes the bloom off the rose. Say goodbye to "THE MOST OPEN AND INCLUSIVE INAUGURATION IN HISTORY"..... (from the Obama transition)

I am returning home from abroad for this historic occasion, but the more I try to think of what the alternatives are from my home in North Arlington (which has very infrequent bus service) on a cold day the more I think I will watch it on my own Jumbotron at home.

Even attending a ball is going to be insane because there is no parking at many of the venues!! Plus, in this economy can everyone throw caution to the wind and really afford a taxi or a limousine at $90/hour? The bus schedule that is posted is insane. A water taxi from Old Town is $60 each way. The Virginia Rail sold out in a minute and would not take passengers from Crystal City.

I am truly angered by the ban on children (who are the eyes of history) and the closing of Chain Bridge awhich is the only way to get to certain parts of the District where I have elderly relatives. I am angry for all the people in the 395 and Route 66 stretches who will not be able to use the road for normal everyday routines that are necessary when one works or has a need to run to the pharmacy or go to the hospital!

In the era of Bailouts I am beginning to think that this must also be a bailout for the limousine, taxi and water taxi business not to mention another big greedy handout to security firms owned by beltway bandits!

Posted by: celticinca | January 13, 2009 3:54 AM

Thank you so much. Please let's continue to scream out against this madness of living in a police state. After the first Bush election, the streets of Washington were filled with protesters with signs calling him the "Commander in Thief." People were raging mad about the elction results, but we survived because that's what this country is about.

There is no way to justify bringing this entire region to a halt. Eleanor Holmes said this would be the eventual result when the Secret Service was allowed to shut down the street in front of the White House. She predicted that if the SS had their way they would shut down DC - and she was partially right. We had no idea that they would also shut down Virgina.

And the worst part is that no one is accountable. The people who should be speaking out are so dazzled by their piece of the Obama dream, that they are forgetting their obligations to the citizens of this region. I know people in MD who work in DC and are worried about getting to work that day. Life continues on the 20th for most of the region.

Posted by: loved1 | January 13, 2009 4:54 AM

The entire region is coming to a halt. If the SS does nothing then too many people and not enough space will do it. At least this way there are warnings and time to devise a workaround.

Posted by: ronjaboy | January 13, 2009 7:05 AM

Anyone who even thinks about driving a car in that area on Jan. 20 is crazy. The ban is irrelevant - it will be impossible anyway.

The reason Virginia has more restrictions than MD (but less than DC, as you finally note) is that there is a river with bridges between us and DC. Nothing more.

And Inauguration Day is a federal holiday, by the way.

All this whining is reflective of the daily attitude in the suburbs that everyone has a right to drive in a car alone. Sorry, it's a city. You have to be flexible, and self-reliant. I'll be riding my bicycle to the inauguration (the only sane mode) and leaving a seat on Metro open for those who can't. The bridges will host buses and pedestrians. Allowing people to take up hundreds of square feet of road space per person (and then try to park!) just won't work.

Get over it.

Posted by: Dadrick | January 13, 2009 7:48 AM

I thought about renting out my house in alexandria. Maybe I should rent a parking space instead.

Closing the bridges doesn't bother me. That makes some sense. But shutting down the various highways is too much. There has to be some type of balance.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | January 13, 2009 10:18 AM

Dadrick says:
"And Inauguration Day is a federal holiday, by the way."

Yes, the Federal Government is closed, but many other companies and businesses are NOT (like mine). Not everyone gets Federal holidays off.

"All this whining is reflective of the daily attitude in the suburbs that everyone has a right to drive in a car alone."

Sure, some folks have this attitude, but it's ridiculous to paint everyone who doesn't live in an urban neighborhood with this brush. Not all of us can FIT in the district, and people drive for a variety of reasons--because their jobs require the flexibility, transit isn't remotely convenient, etc.

"Sorry, it's a city. You have to be flexible, and self-reliant. I'll be riding my bicycle to the inauguration (the only sane mode) and leaving a seat on Metro open for those who can't."

Which is great, and I applaud you. BUT if I don't have a bike, or I'm not fit enough to ride the 20 miles into town from outside the Beltway, that doesn't make me a bad person. Biking's a great option for some, but probably not practical for most.

"The bridges will host buses and pedestrians. Allowing people to take up hundreds of square feet of road space per person (and then try to park!) just won't work."

I agree that there may be good reason to restrict cars from the bridges from VA into the district for this reason, but I think the larger issue IS that NoVA's major roadways are being blocked all inside the Beltway, and this is a legitimate cause for concern and disappointment. Not only does it highly restrict Virginian's ability to access the only available ways into the city (Metro, local buses)--especially for outside-the-Beltway folks who are not familiar with the local streets inside the Beltway--but also working people's ability to get to their jobs, patients to hospitals, etc.

Yes, it IS just one day, and we will survive. But it's silly to pretend that there is going to be a lot of inconvenience created for a great many people for no apparent reason.

Posted by: PQSully | January 13, 2009 10:43 AM

This whole thing of Northern Virginians not being able to use the highways is leaving a very bad taste for our soon to be Commander in Chief's team. I truly hope that there are changes made on restrictions within the state of Virginia. But I don't foresee it.

On the bright side, maybe it won't be as bad as we expect. I am not a federal employee, but my understanding is that only Washington Metro employees are getting off. Not a nation wide Federal Holiday. We in private industry have no such holiday on 1/20/09, so will be attempting to get to our jobs (in the suburbs) and making a living. Our company is considering closing, but realizes that for many one days lost pay could be a serious hardship. Does our president elect care?

Posted by: auntsue54 | January 13, 2009 12:54 PM

I often wonder how locals deal with the DC two step. It appears it happens just like everywhere else. First, we moan and groan, then we do what is proper.

I wish you all luck with your cars and transport next week.

Does anyone here think these security arrangements were made by or required by Obama?

Posted by: Thatsnuts | January 14, 2009 11:51 AM

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