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No. 1 Priority: Porta-Potties on Mall
5,000 Toilets Will Be Available for Inaugural Crowds

By Lena H. Sun and Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 19, 2008

Here's the number everyone has been waiting for: There will be 5,000 porta-potties available on the Mall and along the parade route on Inauguration Day.

If officials ordered the portable restrooms based on how many people they expect that day, then figure on crowds of 500,000 to 1.5 million people. That's a wide range based on whose toilet-to-bladder recommendation is used. Don's Johns recommends one unit for every 100 people. The National Park Service recommends one toilet for every 300, according to spokesman Bill Line, who points out that each event is different because of weather and time of year.

Officials with the Presidential Inaugural Committee aren't saying how many people they expect.

The model that Don's Johns provided for the Fourth of July celebration on the Mall this year has a 70-gallon holding tank and capacity for 125 to 150 uses between cleanings. Each unit comes with deluxe hand sanitizer and at least four rolls of toilet paper. That comes to 20,000 rolls of toilet paper, according to Bernadette Felice, sales manager for the Chantilly-based company, which is seeking to win the inaugural toilet contract.

In addition to portable restrooms, 13 museums will be open around the Mall, including the Holocaust Museum and the U.S. Botanic Gardens. That means people have other options besides, say, an 88-inch-tall, 44-inch-wide, forest-green-colored stall with extra-large doors.

"There are people who just won't go in a porta-potty," Felice said.

The number of toilets has been the subject of much speculation and consternation. Emmett Beliveau, executive director of the inaugural committee, disclosed the number during a news briefing at the D.C. National Guard Armory yesterday, where officials unveiled a 40-by-40-foot map showing the inaugural parade route and other highlights.

"We are expecting a large crowd," Beliveau said without providing specifics.

To make the crowd as comfortable as possible and to ensure that people can see the festivities, the committee is also planning for at least 10 video walls similar to those seen at a NASCAR race or a concert and the largest available in the country, he said.

"We're working on a number of fronts to make this as enjoyable for everyone," said Kevin Griffis, a spokesman for the inaugural committee.

The parade will include 15,000 people and 242 horses and is expected to begin by 2:30 p.m. and last two hours and 20 minutes, organizers said yesterday. No word yet on the number in the rear guard with shovels and wagons.

The restroom issue is critical because the video walls will show the parade as well as the inaugural ceremony, meaning more people could be milling around on the Mall after the noon swearing-in. The number of porta-potties planned this year is more than double the 2,200 provided in 2005, according to Don's Johns.

Of the 5,000 toilets, 1,000 are likely to be on the Mall, 500 near the U.S. Capitol and 3,500 along the parade route, Felice said. The number includes handicapped-accessible facilities. The units on the Mall are likely to be placed in the vicinity of food kiosks.

Organizers want the toilets to be cleaned three times that day, which will boost their capacity, Felice said. VIPs in the secure area around the Capitol will have the luxury of flush toilets in 10 to 15 portable trailers, she said.

The Secret Service is allowing pump trucks to be stationed in the Mall area so the restrooms can be cleaned, she said. Because of the logistics of moving such a large number of porta-johns, the toilets will need to be in place by Jan. 17, she said.

Felice declined to give a cost estimate for 5,000 portable toilets. The 550 units the company supplied for Fourth of July cost the Park Service $46,000, agency spokesman Line said.

Metro will rent about 150 portable toilets for its stations at a cost of about $20,000, officials said. For security reasons, Metro will close restrooms at its 86 stations. The porta-potties will be located at outlying stations and will be used only on Jan. 20. The cost could increase by $10,000 if Metro decides to have the toilets cleaned once during the day on Inauguration Day.

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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