Mayor Gray Complains to Secret Service About 14th Street Closure

Lanes closed for dignitaries at Willard Hotel, not icy conditions

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    NBCWashington.com

    A traffic issue this week upset D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray enough for him to complain to the Secret Service.

    Police tweeted a picture Monday, saying the southbound lanes of 14th Street NW were closed because of icy conditions, but it turns out the lanes in front of the Willard Hotel were closed by the Secret Service.

    The lanes have reopened, but it was still a traffic headache for drivers in downtown D.C. Tuesday morning. Motorists were stuck in backups lasting up to two hours, police said.

    Dignitaries in town for a have been staying at the Willard over the past five days. They were in town for the AIPAC conference, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke.

    Usually they would stay at the Blair House, which is reserved for the president's guests, but it's being renovated.

    "I appreciate that important dignitaries visiting the nation's capital and the White House must be afforded every courtesy and protection available, however, I do not understand why the Secret Service insists on dignitaries staying in a hotel that results in significant portions of downtown Washington being paralyzed by traffic," Gray wrote in a letter to the head of the Secret Service.

    The Secret Service told News4’s Shomari Stone they work with D.C. police and other law enforcement agencies on the closures and they plan to review this issue and meet with the mayor to discuss it. They said the Secret Service does not select dignitaries hotels.

    D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said a plan should be developed for detailed consultation for all such street closures except for routine motorcades.

    "We are very grown up in this city about the need for closures and protection of highly placed U.S. officials and foreign dignitaries," she said. "These inconveniences are accepted by residents as the price of being the nation’s capital. However, D.C. is not a fiefdom to be subjected to the dictatorship of the Secret Service or any other federal agency."

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