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Concern raised over portable toilet shortage at inauguration

Friday - 1/18/2013, 1:16pm  ET

Max Smith, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Inauguration spectators will have to brave the cold, but some worry they will have to brave long bathroom lines, too.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee says there will be a total of about 2,400 portable toilets on the inaugural parade route, the National Mall and the Washington Monument.

D.C. officials expect 600,000 to 800,000 people at the inauguration ceremony and parade on Monday, so the number of portable toilets should be close to the National Park Service guideline of one for every 300 people at the event.

George Washington University Law Professor John Banzhaf, who also raised concerns about the number of portable toilets four years ago, had complained about initial reports that he said could have left people standing in long lines, or not able to find an available portable toilet at all.

"Originally it had been reported that there would be 1,500 Porta Potties ... that number of Porta Potties will now be increased ... so it may eliminate the problem. At the very least, it may, presumably, make it less," Banzhaf says.

The committee says that smaller number only represents the portable toilets on the National Mall rather than the total number available to visitors.

Most of the museums on the Mall will also be open if visitors are looking for a warmer bathroom, but some entrances to the museums will be closed for security reasons.

But Banzhaf would still like to see more portable toilets. He says the park service guidelines should be adjusted in the winter to account for the fact that it takes longer to use the bathroom when people have lots of layers on.

"If we only look at the total number of people, then the {new} number of Porta Potties calculated might be correct. But if you are looking at the area of prime viewing where people are watching the inauguration or watching the parade, there are going to be just as many of them because they're going to pack as tightly as they can, shoulder to shoulder, and that's where your Porta Potty problem is going to be existing, and that's where you need the more Porta Potties," Banzhaf says.

"The fact that there may be fewer of them {than four years ago} 10 or 15 blocks away doesn't really make any difference, you still are going to need a lot of Porta Potties downtown," he adds.

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