An earlier version of this story misidentified gunman John Patrick Bedell as Joe Bedell.
Pentagon to review change in checkpoints
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Pentagon officials agreed Tuesday to review planned changes to security checkpoints near the busy Pentagon Metrorail and Metrobus stations after Northern Virginia transportation officials warned that the changes could create hazards for passengers.
The Pentagon Force Protection Agency, the building's security force, also agreed to discuss the changes with members of the Northern Virginia Transportation Committee, which is made up of local and state officials.
"During the next couple days, we will continue to review our security plans until we come up with a final decision," said Chris Layman, a spokesman for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.
Pentagon security officials decided to add checkpoints farther from the Pentagon entrance where gunman John Patrick Bedell opened fire March 4. The current checkpoint is only a few feet from the Pentagon's busiest entrance, where about 6,700 employees pass through during the morning rush, Layman said.
The security changes -- scheduled to be implemented in coming weeks -- would close off two main covered walkways that lead directly from the bus bays to the Pentagon doors from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays.
Metro board member Catherine Hudgins of Fairfax County, chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, said in a letter to the Pentagon facilities directorate that the change would push long Pentagon security lines up against the flow of commuters, who number 30,000 a day, creating a "safety hazard."
People rushing for buses could run into people in security lines, said Rick Taube, executive director of the transportation commission. He also saw a potential problem with people making the longer walk from bus bays to the Metro station along uncovered walkways during bad weather. "There could be rain storms, and folks would get in each other's way. . . . That should be avoided if possible," he said.
Taube called for better communication between Pentagon security officials and the transit community. "The idea is to get people sitting at the same table before a unilateral decision is made that could endanger some of those transit riders," he said.
The new configuration would pose particular problems for disabled people, said Metro board member Jeff McKay of Fairfax.
"It puts a major line of people right in the way where the elevator comes up, so the very people who already have a difficult time navigating the system, with disabilities or strollers, will be significantly impacted by people going through the Pentagon security checkpoint," McKay said.
In particular, McKay said, the revised flow of foot traffic would make it hard for disabled passengers to make their way to an elevator leading to the Metro station. "In light of security, inconveniences can be dealt with, but what can't be dealt with is ADA access," he said, referring to the Americans with Disabilities Act. "That's the part that has to be fixed," he said.
Pentagon officials are looking into ways to improve access to the elevator while still strengthening security by pushing out the checkpoints, Layman said. "The main question is access to the elevator," he said.
Layman stressed that the new checkpoints would operate only on weekdays and that they would not completely cut off commuter access to elevators.
Overall, he said, the additional checkpoints would help Pentagon employees by giving them "more options" while allowing the security force to "manage the pedestrian traffic flow better and provide additional stand-off from the building entrance."