Federal Building parking ban is unrealistic

Saturday, February 16, 2002

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the General Services Administration issued strict safety precautions for government buildings across the nation, including a no-parking ban on Broadway and Fountain Street next to the Federal Building in Cape Girardeau. The parking ban, which is still in place, affects 25 parking spaces.

Certainly, some amount of concern about security at the Federal Building was to be expected when the nation was confronted with threats of more terrorism. It was not unimaginable in September that the same group who masterminded the strikes on the Pentagon and World Trade Center would launch a coordinated attack against seats of justice and government bureaucracies across the nation.

But enough time has passed to take a cold, rational look at the safety of the Federal Building, especially considering the GSA's plan to make the parking ban permanent.

The GSA's supposition is that -- if parking near the courthouse on public streets were made available -- a van packed with explosives could pull up right next to the building and detonate.

Of course, we all remember too well what happened in Oklahoma City in 1995.

But the situation in Cape Girardeau is different. And if some lunatic is bent on destroying the courthouse here, blocking off those parking spaces won't be much of a deterrent.

First, there is a bank drive-through lane almost directly against the Federal Building's east side and a bank parking lot to the southeast. A space for handicapped drivers remains available on Fountain Street within feet of the building's west side.

And as for the existing, temporary barriers, the Rev. Bob Towner, rector of Christ Episcopal Church at Fountain and Themis streets, said it all: "Those barriers wouldn't even keep a casual terrorist away."

The barriers are an eyesore, and they are robbing Towner's church of convenient parking spaces for elderly and disabled parishioners. In addition, customers of other downtown businesses and even anyone with business at the Federal Building are being needlessly inconvenienced.

If the GSA is going to operate under the bizarre notion that Osama bin Laden is interested in Cape Girardeau's federal building as a potential target, then the government is doing a poor job of providing protection for the vulnerable building.

The best thing that could happen would be to open up those parking spaces and let Cape Girardeau motorists get on with their business.

The Federal Aviation Administration saw the light and lifted unrealistic restrictions on parking at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. The GSA should do the same at the Federal Building.

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