Reagan Procession Disrupts Rush Hour
By Amanda Zamora
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 9, 2004; 9:15 PM
The arrival of former president Ronald Reagan's casket sparked an early rush hour in the nation's capital, as commuters attempted to avoid traffic congestion due to street closings throughout the region.
Closures of major commuting routes in Maryland, Virginia and the District began at 3 p.m. as officials secured the route of Reagan's funeral procession. The former president's coffin arrived at Andrews Air Force Base shortly before 5 p.m. and arrived at the capitol nearly two hours later. At about 7:15 p.m., soldiers carried the casket up the Capitol steps and into the Rotunda, where he will lie in state for public viewing until 10:30 a.m. Friday.
Rolling closures were implemented along the procession route, with police holding traffic at intersecting roads as the motorcade passed. From Andrews, the procession traveled Suitland Road to Suitland Parkway, onto Interstate 295 north to the 11th Street bridge. From there, the procession moved onto Interstate 395 south, across the 14th Street bridge onto the George Washington Memorial Parkway north and into Washington at the Memorial Bridge. Shortly after 6 p.m., the motorcade paused on Constitution between 15th and 17th streets, where the coffin was placed on a horse-drawn caisson for the final leg of the procession.
Constitution Avenue between 23rd Street NW and the Capitol reopened around 9 p.m., though parking between 17th Street NW and First Street NE is prohibited until midnight.
By 6:15 p.m., the 11th and 14th street bridges as well as the Memorial Bridge had reopened.
Metro officials had planned to maintain normal service hours through the week, but instead employed an evening rush hour schedule at 1 p.m. to accomodate people leaving work early. Buses on the Potomac Park, Federal Triangle and Archives routes were detoured through the afternoon in conjunction with the downtown street closings.
Metrorail is not running during the night while Reagan is lying in state, but free shuttle buses will be available between Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium and the Capitol every 15 minutes from 11:30 p.m. today to 6 a.m. tomorrow and again Thursday night into Friday morning. More information on Metro routes and detours is available at www.wmata.com.
The Maryland Transit Administration also altered afternoon routes. MTA reduced fares by $2 for bus passengers with routes originating in the District. Those passengers were instructed to take Metro to stations in Maryland where buses continued on their regular routes. More MTA information is available at www.mtamaryland.com.
Metrorail ridership today was higher than usual, officials said, indicating people heeded advice to take public transportation into the District today. As of 6 p.m., Metro officials reported ridership at 626,737, up more than 78,000 from the same time Tuesday.
Transportation officials had encouraged people to use mass transit and leave work early to avoid traffic congestion. The D.C. government announced liberal leave for its employees beginning at 2 p.m., and unscheduled leave was in effect for federal government workers.
Some area residents opted to avoid the congestion by telecommuting.
Julia Evans, an environmental engineer, chose to work from her Northwest Washington home instead of going to work in Leesburg. Her normal commute takes about 45 minutes, she said, but she expected that the Reagan-related closures would increase her travel time to more than two hours -- hours she spent working instead.
Others were not as fortunate. Meg Sommerfeld got caught in the gridlock as she made her way from afternoon appointments in Washington's West End to her home in Rockville.
"I thought the traffic was only going to be a headache on and around Constitution," said Sommerfeld, 35, who spent an hour and 45 minutes in traffic with her daughters, ages 3 and 1 1/2 years. She said she had the worst experience around the key Georgetown intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street NW, though officials had promoted Wisconsin as an alternative to routes affected by rolling road closures. "We'd be sitting there, and it took multiple light cycles to get through."
Sommerfeld said she planned to take her daughters Friday to the National Zoo, about a mile from Washington National Cathedral, where Reagan's memorial service will be held. She hasn't yet decided whether to take Metro -- something she wishes she had done this afternoon.
Elizabeth McNamara and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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