East Executive Avenue, once a popular downtown commuter route adjacent to the White House, has become a parking lot for 50 White House staffers two months after the National Park Service closed it for security and safety reasons.
The transformation of the one-block street from an artery carrying 10,000 cars a day into an exclusive parking lot for the White House is the latest example of how the White House and the Capitol have taken control of city streets over the years.
These takeovers have resulted in restricting parking to their employes while in many cases District taxpayers continue to pay the repair bills for streets they can no longer use.
The White House is surrounded by 600 parking places, the majority of which are on streets around the executive mansion and the Ellipse, site of the national Christmas Tree.
The National Park Service pays the maintenance costs for East Executive Drive, State Place and the streets on the Ellipse.
However, the city pays for repairs to Jackson Place and E Street, where parking is restricted to White House staffers, according to John Boertlein, budget director for the D.C. Department of Transportation.
The Capitol has 10,000 parking spaces, 2,000 of which are on public streets that have been annexed by the Congress. These streets are dotted now with signs reading "Parking by Permit Only" and there is a $10 fine for violators.
The Capitol's expansion of its reservation has resulted in 2,500 more parking spaces in the last five years. Many of those spaces are on streets formerly under the control of the city.
"The cost of taking care of the streets is figured into the city budget when the federal government prepares it each year," said Elliott Carroll, executive assistant to the architect of the Capitol. "Why have several different entities servicing the streets? Isn't it more efficient to have one do it?"
However, Boertlein said the expenses are not directly reimbursed but instead are part of the city's justifications for the federal payment, an amount appropriated annually by Congress to help pay city expenses that occur because because of tax-exempt federal land in the District.
Boertlein said the city pays an estimated $400,000 a year in repair costs and utility bills for the street lights and traffic signals on annexed streets around the Capitol and the White House, none of which is directly reimbursed. It costs $20,000 more to fix the potholes and remove the snow, he said.
In addition, the city's Department of Environmental Services cleans these streets, picks up the litter and maintains the sewers at unspecified costs, city officials said.
The expansion of the Capitol grounds has increased the already severe parking problems, both business and residential, on the fringes of the Capitol reservation.
"There's no visitor or commercial parking up there, and there're a lot of businesses and a lot of visitors in and out of that area," said Fred Caponiti, the city's parking administrator. "It causes a tremendous hardship on the quality of life" in that neighborhood.
Terrence Flaherty, the Senate's parking director, said Senate employes are allocated about 4,000 parking spaces, of which 1,000 are on the street. The others are in underground garages and outdoor lots.
The House side has added 1,000 new parking spaces on the street and in outside parking lots in the last five years, according to James Abernathy, administrator of the services subcommittee of the House Administration Committee.