D.C. prepping for crowd of 800k at inauguration

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

The District's homeland security director said Thursday that emergency planners expect up to 800,000 people -- many of them locals -- to attend President Obama's January inauguration ceremony, a crowd less than half the size of that at his first swearing in four years ago.

"I can tell you that as we're looking at hotel reservations and things like that ... we're seeing more local folks," said Christopher Geldart, director of the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

Although the Secret Service will oversee security for the inauguration, District officials have staged more than 40 formal meetings in recent months to coordinate the city's plans.

Metro's big day
Metro said Thursday that it will provide wristbands to customers at some stations on Inauguration Day so they will remember where they began their trip into the District. Beginning at 4 a.m. on Inauguration Day, the transit agency will run trains for 22 hours, including 17 hours of rush-hour service.

Earlier this week, the District held a "tabletop exercise" to go through its plans, and at least four more drills and rehearsals are scheduled ahead of the Jan. 21 public inauguration ceremony.

Although Inauguration Day traditionally falls on Jan. 20, the public festivities were delayed because that date in 2013 falls on a Sunday. Obama will take the oath in a private ceremony on Jan. 20, however, to comply with the Constitution's requirements.

Geldart said other inaugural events include a National Day of Service, which is planned for Jan. 19, the parade along Constitution and Pennsylvania avenues and up to five official inaugural balls.

About 2,000 police officers from beyond Washington will help to provide security, Geldart said, and the federal government will help to reimburse those out-of-state departments.

Obama included $25 million in his budget for the District's security costs, but local officials have said for months they anticipate asking for more. In 2009, the city spent $49 million, including $15 million in overtime for D.C. police officers.

The District is also seeking to improve on its 2009 performance, including a notorious episode in which thousands of revelers missed the ceremony because they were stuck in the Third Street Tunnel.

"It was an unsafe area. It got backed up because of [metal detector] and overcrowding issues," Geldart said. "But we've dealt with that."

Geldart said the District also has improved its signage to help visitors navigate the downtown area, especially near the parade route.

Vendors also are hoping for fewer headaches this time after dozens of licensed vendors were forced to abandon their usual locations on Inauguration Day -- and after plenty of unlicensed merchants moved to fill the void.

"It was just done, and it wasn't explained to us as to the reason why," vendor Theodore Walker told lawmakers. "We shouldn't be told to go home so others can come in and turn the whole city into a flea market."SClBExaminer Staff Writer Kytja Weir contributed reporting.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner