ONE OF THE GREAT little roads of Washington is for cars no more--and if you used to drive or ride in one of the 10,000 or so cars that went by the White House on East Executive Avenue every day until this shortcut was closed, you are probably less than overjoyed, and maybe even late to work now and then. What you have there right now is your basic rush-hour mess, with backed up traffic both behind and in front of the White House, right on down to the famous turns on and off 15th Street from Pennsylvania Avenue. But don't look to city hall for help--it's not their department.

East Executive is the little federally owned roadway where the sightseers cluster every morning to take the White House tour--and to see an unofficial exhibit of parked cars belonging to people who go to work in the White House. In the interest of protecting these tourists from moving vehicles, the National Park Service is building a new entranceway with new security facilities and perhaps more landscaping and park benches.

Now, we're all for keeping the visitors out of traffic, but it could be done without closing this street permanently. Besides, the slow but steady drive by the White House is more than a commuter's helper; motoring tourists, too, have enjoyed this scenic route. Surely, a compromise can be struck, one that could cordon off the pedestrians, strictly enforce a low speed limit and maybe even make the street one-way in different directions for rush hours.

If there were a reasonable alternate route for north-south motorists downtown, the closing of East Executive might not matter so much. But like the White House itself these days, there's no getting around it: the street should be reopened somehow-- and soon.