Committee Warns Of "Crush-Level" Inaugural Crowds

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Late yesterday, the Congressional Inaugural Committee issued an "Inaugural Advisory" for those planning to attend Barack Obama's swearing in ceremony in Washington D.C. on January 20th. And the unspoken message seems to be: Stay home.

Otherwise, here's what you're in for: "Street closures throughout Washington, D.C., will make traveling by car or taxi very difficult. Bridges from Virginia crossing the Potomac River into Washington, D.C., as well as major roadways from Maryland into Washington, D.C., may be closed to all but bus traffic."

Prefer the subway? "D.C.'s subway system will be running 'rush-hour' service all day, but is expecting 'crush-level' crowds. Be prepared to wait for space on a train for long periods of time, during which you will have to stand in close proximity to several thousand people. Many Metro escalators will be closed due to crowding and individuals will need to climb Metro stairs or wait to utilize the small number of elevators at Metro stations."

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Either way, get moving early: "While the actual swearing-in will take place shortly before noon, the formal program begins at 11:30 AM and the musical prelude and seating will begin much earlier. Security checkpoints will open for ticketed guests at 8:00 AM, and the committee advises arriving no later than 9:00 AM to ensure that you are through the checkpoints by the time the program begins. Screening will end when the program begins at 11:30 AM and late arrivals will not be able to enter the grounds."

And if you're disabled, best of luck: "Persons in wheelchairs or utilizing walkers should be aware that they will need to move across bumpy surfaces, grassy areas, and possible icy areas (depending on the weather)."

Oh, and one more heads up: "The weather in Washington in January is usually quite cold and often rainy or snowy. Please think carefully about whether you can stand outside in cold weather in a large crowd for up to six hours, and whether you are ready for long delays getting home afterwards."

Enjoy, everyone. Full advisory below.

For Immediate Release
December 29, 2008

Congressional Inaugural Committee Issues Inaugural Advisory

Washington, DC – In the remaining weeks before the 56th presidential inaugural, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) will be issuing a series of advisories to help people who plan to attend the swearing-in ceremony. The following is a special alert for those people who will have tickets to the swearing-in, but may have questions about getting to and from the event that morning. Because of the large crowds and the potential for inclement weather, those people with special needs are advised to pay careful attention to these details.

TIMING

While the actual swearing-in will take place shortly before noon, the formal program begins at 11:30 AM and the musical prelude and seating will begin much earlier. Security checkpoints will open for ticketed guests at 8:00 AM, and the committee advises arriving no later than 9:00 AM to ensure that you are through the checkpoints by the time the program begins. Screening will end when the program begins at 11:30 AM and late arrivals will not be able to enter the grounds.

GETTING TO THE SWEARING-IN

Getting to the swearing-in ceremonies that morning will be very difficult because of the large crowds. In addition to the 240,000 ticketed guests, a million or more people are expected to view the inauguration from the National Mall between 4th Street and the Lincoln Memorial, along with hundreds of thousands of others who plan on watching the Inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.

We recommend planning ahead, but also caution that any plans made in advance should be double-checked in the days and hours prior to the event in case of changes to transportation schedules, street and other closures, and other factors that may impact your travel plans. We also recommend developing back-up plans in case your original travel plans need to be changed at the last minute.

The District of Columbia's inaugural website will have the most up-to-date information on road closures and other travel alerts. We recommend that guests bookmark the site, http://www.inauguration.dc.gov/index.asp, and check it frequently for changing information.

A security perimeter will be established around the U.S. Capitol and the parade route on or before January 20, 2009. Subway stations, bus stops, and streets within that perimeter will be closed. Street closures throughout Washington, D.C., will make traveling by car or taxi very difficult. Bridges from Virginia crossing the Potomac River into Washington, D.C., as well as major roadways from Maryland into Washington, D.C., may be closed to all but bus traffic.

Following are recommendations on how to get to the swearing-in ceremony:

Within 2 Miles of the U.S. Capitol

For those people who will be staying within 2 Miles of the U.S. Capitol, walking to the swearing-in ceremony will be the most reliable method of reaching the ticketed seated and standing areas. Be sure to carefully plan your return trip as well – it won't be possible to cross the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route, except at designated points and Metro will be extremely crowded.

For some people bicycling may be an option to get close to the U.S. Capitol. While bicycles will be prohibited within the security perimeter on January 20, 2009, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) is working on a plan with city officials to have bike valet stations available outside the security perimeter near the swearing-in ceremonies and parade route. More information is available at: http://www.waba.org/index.php.

Beyond 2 Miles of the U.S. Capitol

Use public transportation to get you as close as possible to the U.S. Capitol and walk from there.

D.C.'s subway system will be running "rush-hour" service all day, but is expecting "crush-level" crowds. Be prepared to wait for space on a train for long periods of time, during which you will have to stand in close proximity to several thousand people. Many Metro escalators will be closed due to crowding and individuals will need to climb Metro stairs or wait to utilize the small number of elevators at Metro stations.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) plans to run Metrobuses on Inauguration Day. Check its website, www.wmata.com, for information regarding routes and schedules. As with any other travel planning for January 20, please allow extra time and prepare a back-up plan.

AMTRAK www.amtrak.com, and regional commuter trains, Virginia Railway Express (VRE) www.vre.org and MARC (Maryland) Commuter Train www.mtamaryland.com/services/marc/ will be operating reserved trains on special schedules and are expected to sell out well in advance of January 20. Please visit their websites for more information.

ACCESSIBILITY FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

There will be no vehicular access or parking in the areas around the Capitol on January 20, 2009. This includes vehicles with special disability license plates or tags. While there will be locations outside the perimeter of the Capitol that will be designated as drop-off points for persons with disabilities, traffic conditions and restrictions may make reaching these drop-off locations extremely difficult.

As noted above, public transportation is expected to be running at "crush capacity" and WMATA has informed us that while Metro Access will operate for its regular customers, they do not expect to be able to provide pick-ups for people after events.

There will be designated areas for people with disabilities in each of the ticketed seating areas on the Capitol grounds, however these areas are limited in size and available on a first-come first-served basis. Persons in wheelchairs or utilizing walkers should be aware that they will need to move across bumpy surfaces, grassy areas, and possible icy areas (depending on the weather).

OTHER IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS

The weather in Washington in January is usually quite cold and often rainy or snowy. Please think carefully about whether you can stand outside in cold weather in a large crowd for up to six hours, and whether you are ready for long delays getting home afterwards.

Regardless of the weather conditions, umbrellas will not be permitted in the ticketed areas. Other prohibited items include, but are not limited to: Firearms and ammunition (either real or simulated), Explosives of any kind (including fireworks), Knives, blades, or sharp objects (of any length), Mace and/or pepper spray, Sticks or poles, Pockets or hand tools, such as "Leatherman", Packages, Backpacks, Large bags, Duffel bags, Suitcases, Thermoses, Coolers,

Strollers, Laser pointers, Signs, Posters, Animals (other than service animals), Alcoholic beverages, Other items that may pose a threat to the security of the event as determined by and at the discretion of the security screeners

Bring with you any medications that you need because there will be very long delays in getting to and from events.

Be aware that it may be difficult to talk or send pictures from your cell phone, according to wireless companies. Please use text messaging to send critical messages.

The JCCIC will provide regular updates of this information to the media and via its website www.inaugural.senate.gov.

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