Why We Should Reopen E
2003 The Washington
by Dan Tangherlini
March 31, 2003
The recent "tractor man" incident on the Mall, which led to the
temporary closing of Constitution Avenue and caused massive traffic
jams, left many people wondering about the damage a real terrorist might
inflict on the city. The Post and others suggested that more aggressive
action should have been taken to terminate the incident sooner
[editorial, March 22].
Although I do not second-guess the actions of the U.S. Park Police and
other federal authorities, this incident demonstrates that security does
not necessarily come as a result of closing streets -- especially major
Constitution Avenue carries more than 40,000 vehicles every weekday and
serves as a funnel for the 14th Street, Theodore Roosevelt and Memorial
bridges. With its closing, 40,000 cars and trucks had nowhere to go. The
closing of Pennsylvania Avenue and E Street to vehicular traffic near
the White House has removed needed alternatives.
paralyzed city is an unsafe city. If a building along Constitution
Avenue had been threatened or attacked, evacuation and emergency
response would have been extremely difficult.
When the U.S. Secret Service and other federal agencies look at the
buildings for which they are responsible, their impulse seems to be to
close the streets near these structures, including the State Department,
the Capitol and the White House. This not only harms the economic and
cultural life of our city, it also reduces mobility for those who need
to use our roads -- including fire, rescue and law enforcement
There is an immediate, if partial, solution to the east-west mobility
problem: Reopen E Street south of the White House.
Not long ago, E Street was reconfigured with $1.7 million in federal
funds and reopened to cars. It was closed again after Sept. 11, 2001.
An E Street open only to cars would add much-needed capacity to
Washington's overburdened streets, and it certainly would have made the
recent closing of Constitution Avenue less problematic.
D.C. Department of Transportation