Inauguration Plans Concern Many DC-Area Businesses

Businesses worried about staying open, commuting on Inauguration Day

WASHINGTON -- Many Washington-area businesses planning to stay open on Inauguration Day are concerned about how they will operate and how their employees will get to work.
In a meeting with a few hundred business leaders Thursday, FBI officials and D.C. police said companies need to come up with thorough plans around the many restrictions in the city that day. Employers face numerous limits of when and where they can move people and goods, leaving several overwhelmed by the planning.
"It behooves us to be prepared for anything and everything," said Barbara Lang, president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.
Between 1 to 2 million people are expected to attend the inauguration, District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier said. The list of street and bridge closings announced this week could evolve, she said. (Click here to view a map of street closures and restrictions.)
"All the way through this entire event, information will change rapidly," she said. "Everything is subject to change."
Some hotels and catering companies that don't want to risk it are providing cots for their workers. But others will have to navigate a dicey commute by car or Metro.
Lucia Franks, who works at a research company in southwest D.C., said some employees working that day will have to commute from the suburbs. She wonders how they will make it into the city.
"I think it's going to be absolute gridlock," she said.
Officials with the Greater Washington Board of Trade said businesses should come up with comprehensive plans not just for Inauguration Day, but as early as Jan. 16 and through Jan. 23.
Chauncey Dunham, director of operations of the District Heights, Md.-based First Priority Trailways, said his company is developing plans around possible scenarios for its 22 charter buses.
At the meeting, officials repeatedly said to check online for logistical updates. But Dunham said it's going to be hard to keep drivers informed about traffic patterns and road closures, which could change even that day.
"Can you drive and go to a Web site?" he said. "No, you don't have time."
Businesses also have to work around delivery restrictions. Starting midnight Jan. 18, deliveries in restricted areas in the city will not be allowed.
Gordon Howard, area vice president of CVS, said stores that will be open for the inauguration are stocking up their inventory since large trucks won't be allowed in most areas. It might be a hectic day, so "everyone has to have a lot of patience," he said.
Some businesses also said they were concerned about possible protesters and vandalism. But officials said only a few groups have applied for permits and they don't expect any conflict. There are three designated free speech zones: John Marshall Memorial Park, the U.S. Navy Memorial and Freedom Plaza.
Businesses will notice an increased police presence starting Jan. 16, when officers will go on 12-hour shifts, Lanier said. There will be more officers on foot, bikes and motorcycles, she said. Another 10,000 National Guardsmen will be on duty on Inauguration Day around the region.
FBI officials provided business leaders with a detailed account of how terrorists carried out the Mumbai attacks in November.
There is no specific threat for the inauguration, but officials said they wanted businesses to see how to better manage their operations. For example, hospitality companies should do basic background checks on temporary hires, they said.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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