Review Hails D.C.'s Handling of Big Event

Tunnel Trouble Goes Unmentioned

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The D.C. Homeland and Emergency Management Agency concluded yesterday that the presidential inauguration in January was "highly successful given the unprecedented challenges" associated with handling 1.8 million visitors on the Mall.

In their report, agency officials said the city should be applauded for pulling off an event that featured no arrests, fatalities or other major incidents.

"As a result of the District's robust planning and operational support to the Inauguration, the emergency preparedness community has gained valuable insight into special event planning," the report says.

But the report largely avoids addressing the Inauguration Day fiasco in the Third Street tunnel, which became a holding pen for as many as 10,000 purple ticket holders who were unable to free themselves in time to watch President Obama's swearing-in.

Some of those herded into the tunnel blame D.C. police for sending them there and failing to communicate with U.S. Capitol Police and Secret Service officials about the mess.

The city report does not specifically mention the tunnel. Instead, the report notes that "ticket holders had difficulty finding access to the ticketed areas . . . many people did not know what line to stand in, and some found themselves in the wrong line."

"For the next event, planners should consider forming a separate working group for event-related signage to promote consistency and accuracy of posted message," the report says.

Marisa McNee, a founder of the "Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom" on Facebook, said the report did not go far enough.

"D.C. police are the ones who put people into the tunnel, and I would like to see them address that," McNee said.

City officials defended the report, saying Congress is already investigating the bureaucratic glitches the led to the clogged tunnel.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company