The Environmental Protection Agency is shuttering three staff-only entrances at its Washington headquarters starting this weekend as part of a “budget-driven decision to reduce expenses” for building security, according to an e-mail sent to agency staffers in recent days.
The change is se likely to disrupt the daily routines of thousands of employees who use the doors to get in and out of the building, according to an EPA tipster who alerted the Federal Eye of the changes.
“It will take a few more minutes out of everyone’s day, which, if you multiply it across seven floors and how ever many employees, somehow I think the savings are going to be wiped out by the man hours lost walking the extra 500 feet coming and going morning and night and at lunch,” the tipster said in an e-mail.
The EPA’s headquarters — named for Ariel Rios, an ATF special agent killed in the line of duty in 1982 — occupies a plum locale in the heart of Washington’s Federal Triangle, across the street from some of the District’s most-storied hotels and theaters and next door to the Ronald Reagan Building, the federal government’s second-largest structure.
Security for the building costs $7.8 million annually; closing the three staff entrances will save the agency $300,000, according to EPA spokeswoman Alisha Johnson.
“The decision to close the three entrances was made following a six-month employee traffic-flow study,” Johnson said in an e-mail. “The entrances that are closing were found to have the least amount of traffic.”
Security for most federal buildings is provided by the Federal Protective Service, a tiny Homeland Security agency that employs mostly contract security guards to screen visitors and employees with metal detectors or magnetometers. Individual agencies usually partner with FPS to provide building security, whose government-employed inspectors meet regularly with agency officials to review and revamp security and evacuation plans.
Here’s the text of one of the e-mails sent to EPA employees in recent days:
This is a reminder that, beginning next week, the following Federal Triangle employee-only entrances will close:
— Ariel Rios South entrance that opens to the Woodrow Wilson Plaza.
— EPA East entrance on 12th Street.
— Ariel Rios North interior employee entrance at the corner of 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
The following points should help clarify concerns regarding the closing of the employee entrance at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue:
— The perimeter doors will be open between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., as they are today. EPA employees who use these doors to enter Ariel Rios North will have to walk past the post office to reach the guard station/EPA employee entrance located further west on Pennsylvania Avenue. (NOTE: This guard station is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
— Fire life-safety equipment will be installed on the perimeter doors to prevent entrapment during an emergency.
— Elevators at that entrance will no longer stop on the first floor. They will, however, operate between the basement and other floors in Ariel Rios North.
— The stairwell door that opens to the first floor can be opened only from the inside. The door should be used only in emergency situations because it will be alarmed 24 hours a day.
— The guard desk at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue will close.
— The iron gate between the guard desk and the post office corridor will remain open.
The decision to close these three entrances was carefully considered. The entrances that are closing were found to have the least amount of traffic.
Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost