Tales from the Trail

How to ease traffic tie-ups in Washington: hold a nuclear security summit

April 12, 2010

There’s nuclear security, and then there’s street security. NUCLEAR-SUMMIT/OBAMA

High-level delegations from nearly 50 countries gathered in Washington to talk, talk, talk, and talk some more about keeping the world safe from nuclear terrorism at the Nuclear Security Summit hosted by President Barack Obama.

That in turn required Washington to cope with ensuring the safety of the world leaders gathered to mull world security.

Ripple effect: Plenty of local scare talk about street closings, traffic tie-ups and nightmare commutes that kept many people off downtown streets on Monday, the first day of the two-day summit.

Side effect: an easier commute, lighter traffic, no typical morning gridlock. (Hey maybe there’s an answer to Washington’s nightmare rush hour traffic jams).

A massive security cordon surrounded the summit site with camouflage-wearing National Guard troops and a heavy U.S. security presence.

Barricades sprung up  around the Convention Center and along sidewalks near potential motorcade routes, 10-foot wire fences were erected, the closest Metro train stop was closed, buses were rerouted, and parking was forbidden on surrounding streets.

NUCLEAR-SUMMIT/OBAMAThe World Bank and IMF urged staff to work from home. Pedestrian traffic in the secure zone was limited to residents and business owners and employees who were required to produce a government-issued identification like driver’s license or passport to go through a security checkpoint. Mail carriers had to go through a security checkpoint.

Protests were at a minimum. In a small nearby park, dozens of Falun Gong were protesting China’s leader Hu Jintao, who was attending the gathering.

One luxury hotel near the White House found itself unexpectedly awash in available rooms after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled his attendance at the summit.

The pared-down Israeli delegation was still staying there, but Netanyahu’s stand-in, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, brought no assistants. “He’s fine handling his own paperwork,” one aide said.

Photo credit: Reuters/Richard Clement (Obama at Blair House meeting, member of Secret Service on White House roof )

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