Capacity Crowd Will Close Checkpoints

A U.S. military band marches in a rehearsal of the upcoming parade to celebrate the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama in Washington, January 11, 2009.
A U.S. military band marches in a rehearsal of the upcoming parade to celebrate the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama in Washington, January 11, 2009. (Jonathan Ernst - Reuters)
By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Security officials will count the number of spectators arriving for the inaugural parade, and when the crowd reaches capacity, they will turn people away. Officials warned that could happen well before the parade begins between 2:30 and 3 p.m.

"Once the sidewalks on the north and south side of Pennsylvania Avenue reach capacity, at that point we will close our checkpoints so no more folks can get onto the parade route," said Malcolm Wiley, a spokesman for the Secret Service.

He declined to say how many people would have to arrive to reach capacity. But according to a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to comment, capacity is expected to be between 280,000 and 300,000. That number will include only those people standing on the sidewalks; it does not include the 5,000 people who have tickets to sit on bleachers along the parade route. Officials estimate that at least 1.5 million and possibly more than 3 million people will attend the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20.

After the swearing-in ceremony, the sidewalks from Capitol Hill to the White House are expected to be packed along the entire parade route, which goes west on Pennsylvania Avenue from Capitol Hill, north on 15th Street, and west again on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.

"There's just a finite amount of people we can put on the parade route," the security official said. "For safety and fire reasons, we'll have to cut it off."

Officials said police at parade checkpoints will count each of the spectators, who might arrive as early as 7 a.m. to snag a good spot. The Metrorail system will open at 4 a.m.

Separately, two key downtown Metro stations will close early on Inauguration Day for security reasons. Those stations are close to the buildings hosting official balls that Obama is expected to attend. The early closures, on top of two previously announced Metrorail station closings, will make it more difficult for people taking public transit that day, especially if they are planning to ride the subway to attend or work at the balls at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The Mount Vernon Square/Seventh Street-Convention Center Metrorail station on the Yellow and Green lines will close at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 20. The Judiciary Square Station will close at 4 p.m. The stations are scheduled to reopen at 5 a.m. the next day.

The Mount Vernon Square station, at Seventh and M streets NW, is right by the Convention Center, which is hosting six of the 10 official balls that Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. are scheduled to attend.

The Judiciary Square Station, at 450 F St. NW, is across the street from the National Building Museum, which is hosting the Commander-in-Chief's Inaugural Ball for active duty and reserve military.

Two other Metrorail stations will be closed all day Jan. 20 for security reasons: Archives-Navy Memorial, at Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, along the parade route, and Smithsonian, which is on the Mall.

Metro is encouraging people to use nearby Metrorail stations, including Metro Center, Gallery Place-Chinatown or Union Station. Those centrally located stations are likely to be so crowded that passengers might have to wait before setting foot in the stations and then wait again on jammed platforms for a train.

The closing of the Mount Vernon Square station will make it difficult for hundreds of people who have to work at the inaugural balls.

"If they're taking Metrorail, they will have to walk longer distances just to get to work," Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said.

Four years ago, the Mount Vernon Square station closed at 3 p.m. and reopened at 1 a.m. But four years ago, there were fewer balls at the Convention Center, fewer people at Mount Vernon and fewer people using the rail system compared with what is expected this year. Judiciary Square closed at 5:30 a.m. and reopened at 1 a.m.

Staff writers Nikita Stewart and Mary Beth Sheridan contributed to this report.

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