The mailboxes removed from the Pentagon and areas near the White House after last year's terrorist attacks are gone forever, officials say, but modified newspaper recycling bins started reappearing this week in Metro stations -- right next to the new bomb-containment trash cans.
More than a year after hijacked planes struck the Pentagon and brought down the World Trade Center in New York, a few of the resulting security precautions have been eased or altered in the nation's capital, but most remain intact as officials attempt to balance the need for public convenience and access with demands to deter terrorist activity.
"None of the mailboxes has been put back, and they are not going to be put back," said Deborah A. Yackley, regional spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service.
Roughly 20 mailboxes at 10 sites, including those on street corners near the White House and FBI headquarters and three inside the Pentagon, were carted off shortly after the attacks, Yackley said. They were removed at the request of the Secret Service and the Pentagon amid fears they could be ready places to plant bombs.
Immediately after the attacks, authorities established a security perimeter of several blocks around the White House, barring traffic. The perimeter "moved day to day" and was enlarged during the evenings, Yackley said, creating a challenge for the Postal Service. Postal employees could not get inside the secure zone at night to retrieve mail from the boxes, so removing them solved a problem for the Postal Service, Yackley said.
Some facilities, including St. Elizabeths Hospital, the National Press Club and The Washington Post, also asked that mailboxes outside their buildings be removed. In addition, Yackley said, the Postal Service still temporarily removes some mailboxes during special events at the request of law enforcement.
Some security measures made after Sept. 11, 2001, have been rescinded or modified.
The Metrorail system, for example, initially removed all trash cans, newspaper vending machines and newspaper recycling bins from the train platforms at its 83 stations. New trash containers, designed to withstand a bomb explosion inside them, were put in the stations this summer. The recycling bins, with narrower openings just big enough for newspapers, began showing up in some stations this week.
But nothing is being put on the train platforms, Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said. Instead, the cans and bins have been placed on the mezzanine level, near fare card machines and fare gates. There are no plans to bring back newspaper vending machines, officials said.
"We were juggling requests," Taubenkibel said. "We had customers saying after 9/11 to please remove both the trash containers and the recycling bins. Then, customers started saying there were too many papers on the trains and asking us to bring them back."
The Washington Post, which paid for the recycling bins several years ago, spent $15,000 to retrofit 250 of them with smaller openings, according to Mike Dewey, a circulation director at the newspaper. The containers also now have a peaked covering, instead of a flat top, to stop people from leaving newspapers on top of the bins -- where they were blown about the station whenever trains arrived or departed.
At the D.C. Department of Public Works, daily operations were only marginally affected by the attacks, according to spokeswoman Mary L. Myers.
"We haven't moved or removed any public space litter cans as a result of 9/11 except when law enforcement asks us to for special events," Myers said. However, she added, the federal government and its facilities have taken steps to reduce street furniture and litter receptacles around its buildings.
The District government has changed barrier configurations around its buildings and tightened procedures for screening people who enter the facilities, said Michael Lorusso, deputy director of the D.C. Office of Property Management.
At least one more change is coming. The Reeves Center at 14th and U streets NW, where many municipal offices are located, soon will get metal detectors and X-ray machines.
"The challenge," Lorusso said, "has been to balance the safety of citizens with the ability to keep our facilities open to the public."
That issue continues to generate controversy from time to time.
Dan Tangherlini, director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, said he has been fighting "a constant barrage of requests" for more parking restrictions and street closures from federal agencies that "want to expand their perimeter and enhance their security buffer." He expressed concerns that the federal government is gobbling up too much curb space.
After the attacks, several streets near the Capitol, White House and State Department were closed for security reasons. Most of those restrictions remain in effect, along with a more recent ban against trucks on 17th Street NW.
Authorities have reopened 10th Street SW leading into L'Enfant Plaza; 21st Street, between Virginia Avenue and C Street NW, by the State Department; and Third Street NW, between C and D streets, under the U.S. Labor Department. But requests for more restrictions are pending.
"How do you keep a vibrant city if you're taking traffic lanes and parking away?" Tangherlini said. "When does the restriction against trucks on 17th Street expand to 15th Street and H Street? I'm constantly on guard with what they're proposing in terms of closing streets or limiting access."
Tangherlini said he has taken a skeptical view as federal agencies have sought street closures and parking restrictions, particularly if they want to provide special parking permits for their employees.
"If cars are dangerous," he said, "then all cars are dangerous."