By Ashley Halsey III, Michael E. Ruane and Katherine Shaver
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 8, 2010; A01
The largest security curtain since Inauguration Day will descend on Washington beginning Sunday, closing enough downtown streets to cause two days of gridlock and remind people that living at the center of world political power comes at a price.
More than 40 heads of states will descend on the Washington Convention Center on Monday and Tuesday for a Nuclear Security Summit that will create massive traffic headaches in one of the city's central commuting corridors. A vast perimeter will be in place to protect President Obama and other world leaders as they discuss how to keep nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists.
"There's a potential here to make [the inauguration] look like child's play," said Lon Anderson, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "This is going to be during business hours, when Washington is a live, bustling city."
Thirteen bus routes will be detoured around the area; Green and Yellow line Metro trains will bypass Mount Vernon Square Station; and traffic on two major arteries -- New York and Massachusetts avenues -- will be an utter mess until the meeting adjourns Tuesday night.
"Motorists need to expect the unexpected," Anderson said. "There will be delays. There will be roads closed. There will be detours. It is not going to be a good time for mobility in Washington."
According to guidelines issued by government agencies, residents will be required to show photo ID to reach their homes, and they and their guests -- and anything they are carrying -- will be screened. Secret Service spokesman Max Milien said that screenings could include bag searches and other measures and that authorities could also screen anyone on the "outskirts" of the security zone who "appears suspicious."
Jerome Washington, 24, of the McCollough Terrace Apartments, inside the security zone, said he was upset at the extensive restrictions for the summit, an attempt to create momentum for the effort to safeguard nuclear material. The summit is also expected to focus on ways to combat nuclear smuggling. Obama pledged during his campaign to lock down all "loose" nuclear material worldwide within four years.
"You know you don't have no power when outside forces come in and do stuff like this," Washington said. "You've been living here your whole life. You finally know you don't have power when somebody you don't know . . . just can come, block off everything, and don't even ask you."
Some residents and business owners said there was confusion over details of the security arrangements.
A lunch cart vendor wondered whether she would be allowed to leave her cart at Seventh and M streets NW if she took it there Sunday afternoon. Some residents said they knew little of what was happening. Samuel Thomas, whose mother lives in an apartment complex across Seventh Street from the convention center, wondered when authorities were going to provide residents of his mother's building with details.
Several businessmen said authorities had scheduled a briefing for 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Ballroom A of the convention center to explain the arrangements to residents.
Charles Chong, the manager of Bar 7, in the 1000 block of Seventh Street, said he was resigned to the situation. "What can you say? You're next to the convention center."
For commuters who have to pass through the area, staying away -- and working from home -- was being promoted as the best option. A spokesman for the federal Office of Personnel Management said the agency might provide formal guidance to federal workers by the end of the week.
"People who live there, people who work around there and people who commute through there all are going to be affected," said John Lisle, District Department of Transportation spokesman. "It's one of the largest gatherings of heads of states ever, in Washington, anyway."
"We're asking people to plan ahead, allow more time and look for alternative routes" around the convention center, Milien said.
The road closings and parking restrictions in the convention center area will begin Sunday night and continue until the last limousine heads for Andrews Air Force Base on Tuesday evening.
Milien said roads and the Metro station must remain closed for the entire 48-hour event because police need to ensure that a motorcade route or other area remains secure once it has been cleared. Milien said motorists might encounter some brief road closures near hotels when dignitaries enter and leave.A boon for business?
Despite the security, shopkeepers around the convention center predicted the influx of diplomats, police and journalists would be good for business.
"It's like with the inauguration," said Erroll Brown, owner of the Euromarket sandwich shop at Seventh and L streets NW. "I get a lot of business from the law enforcement, Secret Service [and] support staff of all the heads of state. All the ones who aren't VIPs inside at sit-down dinners, they have to find somewhere to eat breakfast and lunch. . . . It's a captive audience."
Brown said the Secret Service collected the names and Social Security numbers of employees Tuesday, provided instructions on how to enter the security perimeter and said deliveries won't be allowed after Sunday. "It's pretty exciting," he said. "You get a chance to see all the dignitaries."
At a public parking lot at Ninth and L streets, the manager said the government had rented the entire lot for $20 per car per day, paid in advance. "They rented it out for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday," said the man, who identified himself only as T. "FBI, Secret Service."
But Negest Dawit, owner of T.G. Cigars, on Ninth Street near M, said her business would probably suffer. Any customers she might see were likely to buy only a cigar or two. Her usual customers buy them by the box.Metro on alert
Metro trains won't stop at Mount Vernon Square from 9 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Wednesday. Metro will also close all rail station restrooms during the summit. Additional police and police dogs will patrol the system, officials said.
"We are on an equally high level of alert as that we had for the presidential inauguration," Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said. "Transit internationally is a target."
All Metro's SWAT teams and bomb squads will be working during the summit, as Metro Transit Police and other agencies secure the area, she said.
The summit comes less than two weeks after Metro intensified security in response to the terrorist attack on Moscow subway stations. In recent months, Metro has held anti-terrorism exercises designed to test and improve responses to events such as bombings or shootings on buses or the subway system.
Closing the restrooms throughout the Metro system is necessary because those facilities were not originally built for the public and some are located near sensitive rail equipment, Farbstein said.
The street closures will cause detours and longer trips for several Metrobus routes, including 42, 63, 64, 70, 71, 79, 80 D4, G8, P6, S2, S4 and X2. And the Georgetown-Union Station D.C. Circulator route will be split and detoured.By land, sea, air
Increased airspace restrictions will not affect commercial airlines, said Laura Brown, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
But she said smaller private planes will not be allowed to use Reagan National Airport from 8 a.m. Monday through 10 p.m. Tuesday. The tighter rules for general aviation will effectively close nine smaller airports used by private planes in suburban Virginia and Maryland, including College Park Airport, Brown said.
"This is not something your average airline passenger will even notice," Brown said.
Petty Officer John Edwards, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard, said boaters on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers will noticed increased patrols from Sunday to Tuesday. He said there will be no security restrictions.
"We're just going to provide an increased presence," Edwards said. "People are free to come and go on the Potomac and Anacostia as normal."
Staff writers Ed O'Keefe, Mary Beth Sheridan and Ann Scott Tyson contributed to this report.