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Obama traffic nightmare leaves residents with lingering road rage

August 17, 2010 |  2:26 pm

We have one word for you, Mr. President, the next time you want to sweep into Los Angeles on a weekday late afternoon: helicopter. That way you can avoid the streets the rest of us mere residents must drive to get around.

President Obama's fundraising mission in Los Angeles may have been a whirlwind trip for him, but it was a tedious slog for thousands of people who found themselves in traffic gridlock from the Westside to Hancock Park.

A two-mile drive on the Westside took 45 minutes. Frustrated drivers vented on the Los Angeles Times' website, among others. No matter their politics, Los Angeles residents were united.

"It was a beautiful thing," said Brentwood resident Myles Berkowitz, commiserating with his neighbors on Montana Avenue. "Young, old, black, white -- everyone was pissed off."

Despite complaints about the street closures as Obama made his way from the Beverly Hilton to the Hancock Park home of producer John Wells (whose credits include "West Wing," "ER," and "Southland") to raise $1 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, no official who had a hand in sweeping the grid of city streets clear for the president would specify what -- if anything -- was done differently.

One law enforcement official did say of the president's trip Monday night that "where he went is a very tricky area."

Residents trying to navigate their way -- at rush hour, no less -- from Beverly Hills to Hancock Park know what a patchwork of surface streets that trip is.

The Secret Service puts together the routes for motorcades along with local and state law enforcement agencies, according to spokesman Edwin Donovan. And traffic disruption is a problem.

"We always look at those issues," Donovan said. "We want to make as small an impact as possible on a community. That's always a consideration."

At least Obama availed himself of the copter solution on Tuesday morning. On his way back to Los Angeles International Airport, his motorcade took him from the Beverly Hilton to an open field near Brentwood. From there, he switched to Marine One to catch a ride to the airport, thus sparing those drivers who would have had to share the 405 Freeway with him.

-- Carla Hall

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