Yesterday, the President came to Baltimore to visit Fort McHenry as part of the 200th anniversary of the National Anthem. War of 1812 and all that.
He, as one would expect, arrived via the Marine One helicopter… there’s plenty of space at Fort McHenry to land a helicopter.
This is, I think we would all agree, a normal and acceptable function of the head of state. He visited a major celebration of an important time in the history of the United States, got to tour a historical site, and hobnob with the people there. I’m cool with that.
At about 3-3:30PM, however, I95 southbound was closed at the Ft McHenry tunnel. All access routes out of Baltimore to I95 Southbound were closed. I695 Westbound from I95 (the West side inner loop) was also closed, so there was no access to I695 to go West or North from I95 all the way around to past I70.
It remained closed until after 5PM.
That’s on a Friday. During rush hour. As an Orioles game ended. During a huge historic celebration bringing tourists into and around Baltimore.
The road closures were not announced until they were happening, and no ETAs for reopening were provided.
Because the President needed to attend a fundraiser for Democratic Senators, held at a private residence in Northwest Baltimore. A house owned by a wealthy hedge fund manager, and a fundraiser that cost tens of thousands of dollars to attend. (I’m thinking everyone there was probably in the 1%).
The result? Tens of thousands of commuters were stuck. Downtown Baltimore was absolutely gridlocked for hours. Since there were no alternate routes, and overpasses along His travel route were also closed, there was no where to go, and no one knew what time it would end.
I understand the security needs of the President. While I think it’s overkill to shut down an interstate so He can use it, I get it. I understand why the closures aren’t announced, and why the timing isn’t shared with the public What I don’t understand is how we got to the point that we simply accept the President can shut down a city for a couple of hours during rush hour to go to a fundraiser. How much did that fundraiser cost the area in lost productivity? Frustration? Parents getting home to their kids? I would argue it’s thousands of hours, and in the millions of dollars.
Here’s what it cost me, just as an example:
I am self employed as a Realtor, and showed a condo in Harbor East at noon. After the showing, I grabbed some lunch, and wrestled with having a beer with lunch and enjoying the rest of a very pretty afternoon, or heading to the gym to get the training session in that I had rescheduled to show the condo. I’m proud that I decided to go to the gym.
My gym is in Columbia. I shot down I95 from Baltimore in no time, got to the gym, and had a good session. Showered, feeling good, I hopped in my car to come home. Just as I started the car, I got a text from my wife indicating there were road closures due to the President’s visit (which I expected, but they would be in and around downtown, not affecting me in any way). Alas, she said the West side inner loop of 695 would be closed.
My route from Columbia to my home near Ruxton is to take 32 to I70, get on I695 towards Towson, then get off at Greenspring and take back roads to my house. I figured, however, that with I695 closed, I could take I70 to Security Blvd (where I70 ends just past I695), and take the surface streets through Northwest Baltimore to get home. That’s the same route I take when traffic on the Beltway is really bad.
So I started home. It’s about 3:30. The backup on I70 started about a mile and a half from I695. I chose the left lane, to get me to Security Blvd. As I got to the I695 exit, I saw that the route to Security was closed (I learned later this was due to the overpass over I695). So I couldn’t go that way. I was forced to get on to I695 South, towards I95, away from my destination.
Smooth sailing from there, I thought maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Then I hit I95 North (my route now is to take I95 to I395 into Baltimore, MLK to avoid traffic to get to I83N, which I take to Northern Parkway, to Charles, to home.
At about 4:30, I saw the Presidential motorcade go past me, Southbound on I95. I was sitting still on Northbound I95.
I got home at 5:30. 90 minutes more than it should have taken me.
Multiply that by, say, 10,000, which is a very conservative number of people affected by the road closures. Road closures that again, allowed the President to go to a political fundraiser. Not a ceremony at a historic place. Not a meeting with a head of state, or even a member of his cabinet. A fundraiser, where rich people purchased influence with Democratic Senators and the President.
What did I lose? 90 minutes of time in my home office that I had to move to Saturday. That time on Saturday was going to be used to visit a friend in the hospital. 90 minutes of productivity for me is, I don’t know, $200? Hell, make it $100. So that trip via car during rush hour for the President to go to a political fundraiser cost the Baltimore economy a minimum of $1,000,000. I’d wager much, much more. And that’s not taking the cost of all the people, police, etc. it takes to close down a highway. It doesn’t take into account the ambulance I saw sitting in gridlocked traffic, lights flashing, moving no where. I hope that person wasn’t in dire condition.
And it doesn’t matter to the ruling class. Shutting down a city at rush hour to get to a fundraiser is just the way it’s done.
That, my friends, should show you where you stand. You are simply unimportant. Your trip home will be significantly disrupted, as there’s money to be raised.