Masses Converge On D.C.'s Inaugural Events

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Transportation is one of Washington D. C.'s biggest concerns. Streets, bridges, parkways and entire swaths of Washington and neighboring Virginia are shut down to private auto traffic.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Transportation is one of today's biggest concerns here in Washington, D.C. Streets, bridges, parkways and entire swathes of the capital and neighboring Virginia are shut down to private auto traffic. Add to that thousands of buses that will be bringing passengers to the center of the city and, well, you get the idea. NPR's Larry Abramson joins us from the 14th Street Bridge. And Larry, I gather you took the subway before dawn to get there, even though you might have driven on another day.

LARRY ABRAMSON: That's right. I took the very first subway. The train was absolutely packed with people who had gotten in on trains that are further out, stations that are further out. And as we moved into the city, you can imagine more people started to shove their way onto those trains. A lot of people at Metro said these are just the early birds, it won't be that bad later on in the day. But if it continues to be that bad, we're going to have a lot of problems on the Metro and a lot of disappointed people who will have to walk in.

MONTAGNE: Now, when I was coming in, I was seeing people crossing bridges that you never see people cross in the middle of the night, and they were quite far from the National Mall, from the scene of the inauguration.

ABRAMSON: Right.

MONTAGNE: What are seeing there, on the 14th Street Bridge?

ABRAMSON: Well, ordinarily, this is a bridge that only a few hardy bicyclists use and hardly any pedestrians go across. It's basically a giant swathe of freeway. But now we're seeing a steady stream of pedestrians coming in, a few bicyclists. And then on the actual roadway, we're seeing dozens of charter buses coming in. They're moving very fast, traffic is moving pretty well. But, you know, this section of the freeway, Renee, ordinarily is a major commuting route, it's been completely shut down for miles and miles from the capital beltway into the city in order to facilitate the rapid movement of these charter buses. There are also taxis and limousines, they are also allowed through.

MONTAGNE: Do you have any estimates on the numbers of people trying to get into this city?

ABRAMSON: No. I have absolutely no idea. You know, this is such a vast area, and the operation that they tried to man here, you know, shutting off the thousands of tiny little streets that feed into other tiny little streets and then come onto the freeway is so complex. I can see the ring of freeways that go around the Pentagon and around some of the parkways along the Potomac River, and they've had a very difficult time finding ways to shut these freeways off while still giving pedestrians a way into the city. So right now it's very hard to tell.

MONTAGNE: Do you have a few words to express the sight, if you will, that you're seeing? You just described it literally, but...

ABRAMSON: It's really, it's stunning, Renee. It's almost out of something from "First Encounters of the Third Kind," if you remember, you know, that theme at the end of the movie when the spacecraft lands and it's at night, and here we have all these blue and red lights from the police cars that are sort of floating around on these little parkways. There are buses and boats coming along the river, they're patrolling the river to stop any kayakers who had expressed interest in getting across. And then all the monuments are glowing off in the distance. It's just beautiful.

MONTAGNE: OK, Larry, thank you very much. NPR's Larry Abramson.

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