Roads blocked for inauguration

January 8, 2009 2:50:24 PM PST
The Secret Service and Washington transportation officials plan to block all the bridges over the Potomac River into the District on Inauguration Day. Personal vehicles also won't be allowed from Interstates 395 and 66 inside the Capital Beltway. Not only that, they'll also cordon off a huge chunk of downtown Washington from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m.

There will be some ways to get into the city, including New York Avenue and the Sousa, Whitney Young and Benning Road bridges, but Northern Virginia drivers will only be able to come in via the Beltway in Maryland.

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The bottom line is no one is going to be able to get anywhere near inaugural events by car. Only mass transit - which is expected to be jammed - will be available. Officials are encouraging people to walk or bike.

Larger vehicles like buses and limousines will be able to get through. Thousands from North Carolina alone plan to attend the inauguration of the nation's first black president. No one knows for sure how many will come, but Washington officials estimate anywhere from 1.5 million to 3 million.

Threats of a huge crowd aren't deterring groups in the Triangle area. The Martin Luther King Committee of Raleigh has 28 buses full with 1,700 people going, but they say they've planned ahead.

If it's anything like the Million Man March - David Prince with the Committee says he's ready for the crowd.

"it's going to be a challenging time because the city is going to be full of people," he said.

Prince says they started planning - before Obama won a primary.

"We have our parking passes. We know about where we're going to stand, some of us have tickets to the swearing in," he explained.

They also have their hotel rooms. There's just one hurdle they have to jump.

"We're going to have a hard time eating. We think because everybody's there, and everybody wants to go into a restaurant and eat," said Prince.

But even with that, Prince says nothing could stop the group's quest to watch President-Elect Obama make history at the nation's capital.

"We've decided that we're not going to watch it on TV. We're just going to be a part of history. We're going to be there amongst the crowd, in the electricity of Washington, DC on January 20," he said.

So, if you're going, plan to do a lot of walking and a lot of waiting. Some are even suggesting you pack food, water and toilet paper.

Washington's The Metro transit system says more than 100 police officers from 14 transit agencies will help with security. They will be joined by federal law enforcement and local police departments to help oversee the bus and rail system, which is bracing for record ridership.

Several hundred volunteers also will assist customers who are unfamiliar with Metro. They will hand out maps and help customers with fare machines.

Metro continues to warn passengers of packed railcars and long lines. General Manager John Catoe is comparing the crush to "the Fourth of July several times over."

To help alleviate crowding on trains, Metro will run 22 dedicated bus routes to downtown along major corridors in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.


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