WASHINGTON – The Secret Service accepts some responsibility for creating the gridlock that shutdown central downtown this week.
In an interview with WTOP, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan says that multiple factors contributed to the late morning traffic jam that rippled from 14th Street to Interstate 66, the Rock Creek Parkway and even Capitol Hill.
“The Secret Service has to take responsibility for our portion of that. We certainly created issues with the security measures that we had in place,” Donovan says.
Several blocks of 14th Street from G to Pennsylvania Avenue were shut down as were two blocks of F Street. Additionally, L street was shut down in front of the Washington Convention Center where the AIPAC conference was held and where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Tuesday.
Multiple motorcades moving through the city at the same time plus late report times for federal workers also contributed to the mess, Donovan says.
Donovan says his agency has a long history of working with both the Metropolitan Police Department and the mayor’s office when preparing for protection details, like for Netanyahu’s stay. And the agency already takes into account traffic problems.
“There are certainly times when there are unique security concerns that arise that necessitate us closing streets. And we always work very closely with the Metropolitan Police Department when we make those decisions,” Donovan says.
Gray, who sent a letter to the agency Tuesday complaining about the poor planning that led to the traffic backups, says he has already heard back from the Secret Service director.
“We need to be more involved in these decisions,” Gray says. “We need to set up guidelines that we’ve established for when these situations will occur and we’ll all know how to proceed rather than waiting until someone is coming,” Gray says.
The Secret Service alerted the city to the security measures last Thursday, which Gray says was far too late.
The city announced the road closures the next day.
“We’ve been very accommodating. We understand the importance of being the nation’s capital and the unique responsibilities that come with that,” Gray says. “There has to be a balance struck between national security needs, which are very important, and the local commerce needs, which are part of being able to run our city every day.”
Secret Service officials are willing to meet with the mayor’s office to discuss Gray’s concerns, Donovan says.