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TRAFFIC CONTROL Closing of streets tougher than ever



Published: Sat, January 15, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Security measures are forcing everyone to choreograph their movements with care.

WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON -- The massive shutdown of downtown arteries for the presidential inauguration has prompted a slew of logistical challenges for people who live, work and entertain in the 100-square-block area affected.

At the National Museum of American History, a daunting problem is ensuring that the food and drink arrive at an inaugural ball well before closed streets deprive the 3,000 guests of the necessary wares for partying.

Elizabeth Little, the museum's director of special events, arranged for thousands of plates, glasses, silverware and chairs to be delivered early Wednesday, nearly 36 hours before Michigan's state ball is to begin. The 100 beef tenderloins, 400 pounds of salmon and 500 duck breasts will arrive late that afternoon and will be parked in two refrigerated trucks in the museum's lot until a few hours before the party.

And the 6,000 pounds of ice to cool the guests' drinks?

That delivery also will arrive Wednesday, and it will rest on a loading dock beneath thermal insulation until the following afternoon. "We've always had street closing, but this time everyone seems intimidated about the possibility of it being much tougher to move," Little said from her museum office. "We're just being a little more cautious."

Soaring rhetoric

Presidential inaugurations draw sprawling crowds and inspire soaring rhetoric. But for the hometown folks -- the people who live, work and party in the heart of downtown -- the pageantry is a blessing that is decidedly mixed. In exchange for ringside perches at a historic moment, they must contend with a plethora of headaches, more so this year with the Secret Service closing roughly 100 square blocks of downtown, restricting parking and starting the shutdown earlier than usual.

Lawyers, lobbyists and residents with offices and apartments overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue are inviting guests to watch the parade from windows and balconies with choice views, as they have done for many such events. But security measures for the inauguration, the first since the Sept.11, 2001, terrorist attacks, are forcing everyone from hosts to guests to caterers to choreograph their movements with care. They will need photo identification and official invitations to ensure that they can clear 22 security checkpoints and traverse a downtown from which cars will be barred, in large part, starting Wednesday night.

"I can tell you that all over town, people are scratching their heads over how they will get anywhere," said Carolyn Peachey, an event planner who is organizing three parties.

In some cases, business owners are shutting down because the street closings will make it difficult for customers to reach them. The owner of A.V. Ristorante Italiano, a scant block from the Washington Convention Center, the site of six inaugural balls, is giving his staff the day off because parking will be banned on his street after 10 a.m. Thursday.

No choice

"We don't have any choice," said John Dibari, standing in his dimly lighted dining room as the luncheon crowd filled tables covered in red-checked cloths. "I don't know how my employees will get here, let alone my customers."

Around the corner, Jim Carr, manager of Alpersteins Furniture Store, also is planning to close, and he groused about a day of lost business. "Who's going to be downtown shopping?" he asked. "Why open when all the streets around us are closed?"

In other cases, proprietors are planning to remain open, although they acknowledge that they are unsure what to expect.




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