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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

Places in Washington DC

Norton Asks Secret Service and NPS to Meet with Her on Danger to Cyclists and Pedestrians Caused by Repeated Pennsylvania Ave. Closures

Jul 9, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the ranking member of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, today released a letter she wrote to Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis to arrange a meeting to discuss bike and pedestrian access to the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza and Lafayette Park area in front of the White House.  Norton said that she understands and agrees fully with the needed changes due to security concerns around the White House that may warrant certain temporary closures, but lengthy and unannounced closures are unacceptable.  Norton said that with better planning and notification, it should be possible to avoid surprising the public while attending to White House security.

In her letter, Norton wrote: “The closures are also impacting pedestrians.  For example, beginning on June 8, the Secret Service closed bicycle and pedestrian access through the security check points via the Madison bollards.  This closure forces bicycles onto heavily used, congested sidewalks.”

The full text of Norton’s letter is below.

Joseph P. Clancy
Director
United States Secret Service
245 Murray Drive
Building 410
Washington, DC 20223

Jonathan B. Jarvis
Director
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Director Clancy and Director Jarvis:

            I have written to your office previously regarding pedestrian access to the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza area located in front of the White House.  While I very much appreciate that the Secret Service and the National Park Service have added spikes to the top of the fence to prevent jumpers from penetrating the boundaries of the White House, bicyclists have been denied access to the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza and Lafayette Park area with no notice and for lengthy periods of time.  The closures are also impacting pedestrians.

For example, beginning on June 8, the Secret Service closed bicycle and pedestrian access through the security check points via the Madison bollards.  This closure forces bicycles onto heavily used, congested sidewalks.  The current closure is expected to last at least another week, but with the frequency of these closures, another closure could happen at any time.

            Aside from the frequency and length of the closures, another problem is the lack of information provided to residents and visitors alerting them to the closures and alternative routes.  Now that Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House is no longer open to cars, the White House plaza has become a gathering place for residents and visitors to express their First Amendment rights and for taking pictures of the White House.  The plaza is also a space where pedestrians and bicyclists can cross the city without the dangers associated with sharing the roadway with cars.  Considering the importance of this pedestrian and bike thoroughfare, workers, residents, and tourists need advance notice of alternative routes in the event that access to the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza and Lafayette Park area is cut off.

I understand that particular threats to the White House may warrant temporary closures to Pennsylvania Avenue and Lafayette Park, but these closures should not be lengthy or without reason.  I ask that the appropriate officials come to my office to discuss these closures.  Please call my office to set up this meeting.  My scheduler, Try Coburn, can be reached at (202) 225-8050.

Sincerely,

Eleanor Holmes Norton

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