Can D.C. Handle Inaugural Crush?

More than 2 million people are expected to descend on Washington for Barack Obama's inauguration Tuesday.

Is the nation's capital prepared?

Officials are urging everyone planning to be there to have a plan ready for getting around town.

As reporter Bruce Leshan of CBS D.C. affiliate WUSA-TV reported on The Early Show Wednesday, the flags are up on the inaugural platform. Fences and barricades are deployed. Even the porta-potties have arrived.

But if you're coming -- brace for a huge hassle.

D.C. is known for terrible traffic, but the inauguration forecast is for near gridlock, with warnings going out to drivers for hundreds of miles around the city.

How will Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley go about his business? "I plan to come here with the police," he joked with reporters.

Leshan says Virginia will be "nearly as cut off from Washington as it was in the Civil War. All five Potomac bridges will be restricted or closed entirely. And so will the major Interstates into the city."

Dulles International Airport is setting aside a runway to park private planes.

And if a million people try to leave by way of Washington's subway system, it could take them eight hours to get home.

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine says visitors will need to need to make a plan or risk getting stuck.
"You might be able to see the Capitol where the inauguration is taking place, but not be able to get there from here," Kaine told a news conference.

Just under a quarter of a million people will be getting actual tickets to the inaugural stand on the West Front of the Capitol. But millions more may watch on Jumbotrons set up along the National Mall.

Bill Hanbury, of "Destination DC" suggests that, "Anybody coming to the inauguration bring a gigantic dose of patience, because there'll be unprecedented security, and a tremendous amount of logistical challenges both from our metro and transportation systems. But ... we're well prepared to do these kinds of events."

President Bush has now declared a State of Emergency for D.C. for Saturday through next Wednesday but, notes Leshan, that's mostly just to help pay for security costs that could run to $75 million.

"If you do want to come," Leshan points out, "Amtrak, buses, taxis, bicycles and just walking are all possibilities."

He says you should also be aware of the possibility of "cell phone gridlock" if too many people attempt to call or send photos from D.C. that day.

The forecast, incidentally, is for 28 degrees, with high winds and flurries.

To see the CBSNews.com Special Report: Inauguration '09, click here.
  • CBSNews

Comments