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Pennsylvania Avenue Front Page Pennsylvania Avenue Front Page


Last update: October 14, 2004



Construction efforts are currently underway to restore Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House to be a beautiful, dignified public space befitting one of the nation’s most prominent and visited destinations. The project will rid the area of the ad hoc security barriers currently scattered on Pennsylvania Avenue and will improve the quality of President’s Park. The design, created by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, enhances the beauty, civic space, and visual quality of the Avenue, and creates a setting appropriate for the White House and President’s Park. Construction began in January 2003 with the erection of fences that will be in place until the project is completed within a year.

The design’s central elements include new tree planting and site furnishings; new paving materials; new guard booths and a combination of retractable, removable and fixed bollards; and a route for a planned transit system.


Existing concrete bollards and trees in front of the White House are being removed and replaced by a new planting scheme of 88 ‘Princeton’ American elms, a disease resistant strain endorsed by the National Park Service. The installation will provide evenly spaced and sized trees on both sides of the Avenue, in addition to providing longevity, and ease of maintenance, irrigation, and drainage.

The planting scheme will consist of a single row of street trees along the north and south curbs of Pennsylvania Avenue between Jackson and Madison Places; and a double row of trees along a portion of the north curb line of the Avenue west of Jackson Place and east of Madison Place.

The American elms will replace some existing willow oak trees that would have been negatively impacted by much needed utility improvements to the Avenue. There is also a historical reason for choosing the American elm. As described in the 1935 Olmsted Report on the Executive Grounds, a row of native American tree species-including the American elm-originally existed on the south side of the Avenue. The American elm has a high arching form that will provide a spectacular promenade, along with wonderful fall color and winter form. The new trees will provide a welcome canopy for pedestrians and a more inviting view of the White House grounds.

The beauty, civic design and visual quality of this special place will be enhanced, creating a setting that addresses security concerns while preserving the historic importance of the White House.


To help unify Lafayette Park with the White House, a more natural looking paving material is being installed for the central portion of Pennsylvania Avenue and Jackson and Madison Places. This paved surface will slope slightly upward to emphasize the raised elevation at the White House. At 15th and 17th Streets, large granite pavers will accentuate entry to the precinct. The eastern and western ends of Pennsylvania Avenue will be paved with 2-foot x 5-foot granite slabs in the cartway, and 4-foot x 10-foot granite slabs within the sidewalk area. A mix of gray- and pink-toned granites have been selected.


The Van Valkenburgh teams designed security booths that reflect the classical architecture found along the Avenue. The booths, which will be placed at each entry point, have a granite base, a lead-coated copper roof and cast iron columns painted to match the light fixtures. Vehicular access will primarily be accommodated at checkpoints located at Jackson and Madison Places.

In place of jersey barriers, the project employs specially designed bollards, including a simple fluted, 36-inch gray-green bollard for use on Pennsylvania Avenue at 15th and 17th Streets. A similar design will be used for the retractable bollard. The bollards will allow for free pedestrian movement, maintain a visually open environment, and respect the character of the street. Removable bollards will accommodate the Inaugural Parade.

Bollards on Jackson and Madison Places will match the existing 42-inch Presidential bollard in shape and color and will tie into the existing bollard line in Lafayette Park. The same retractable bollards used on Pennsylvania Avenue will be used in these locations as well; however they will be the same color as the existing Presidential bollards.


The project is a result of the valuable input provided by the public, key stakeholders, the Van Valkenburgh design team, and numerous partners including the District of Columbia, the National Capital Planning Commission, which was responsible for the initial design phase of the project, and the Federal Highway Administration, which is now managing the construction effort. The end result is a design that successfully satisfies the key criteria to incorporate necessary security measures while respecting the Avenue’s historical character. Furthermore, the proposed design is easily reversible and does not preclude reopening Pennsylvania Avenue vehicular traffic in the future.

Videos of Construction
Jorge Alverez, Project Engineer, speaks to our White House Kids reporter
October 1, 2004
Jorge Alverez, Project Engineer, speaks to our White House Kids reporter on the Pennsylvania Avenue project.   
Project Foreman speaks to our White House Kids reporter
April 15, 2004
The Project Foreman discusses the Pennsylvania Avenue Project with our White House kids reporter.   
Laura Bush discusses the Pennsylvania Avenue Project with our White House kids reporter
March 3, 2004
Laura Bush discusses the Pennsylvania Avenue Project with our White House kids reporter.   

Artist Rendition of Final Plans
Thumb nail of artist rendition of final plans
Design information is from the Pennsylvania Avenue Final Design Document by The Federal Highway Administration (September 4, 2003) and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates'.

Click here to learn more about final plans

Photographs of Construction

Before Construction:

Pennsylvania Ave at the Madison Place

Click here for more photographs

During Construction:

Click here for more photographs

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