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White House uses Marine One to lessen Obama traffic congestion in L.A.

October 22, 2010 | 11:49 am

The White House appears to be going to great lengths to prevent traffic tie-ups from President Obama's visit to Southern California on Friday by transporting him to two events on the Marine One helicopter rather than on local roads.

Wave Obama touched down at LAX on Friday and was whisked by the helicopter to USC for a speech and rally. The chopper was set to land at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. After his USC event, he was to take Marine One to Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, then shuttle by motorcade to the Univision studios in Glendale. The motorcade is expected to jam traffic on the 134 Freeway and Glendale surface streets.

But local law enforcement officials said the use of Marine One will significantly reduce street and freeway congestion. Some law enforcement officials said they cannot recall a time when the helicopter was used as much to get a president around L.A.

Thousands of people started lining up Friday morning at USC for Obama's rally for Sen. Barbara Boxer. The visit prompted local street closures.

Anyone traveling "in and around the USC campus" should expect delays and are encouraged to "plan another route if possible," LAPD officials said in a statement.

Sandy McKenna, a 42-year-old graduate student in social work, said she normally drives from her home in Orange.

On Friday, though, she and a classmate took a train to Union Station and a shuttle bus to the campus.

"We didn't want to get stuck in any traffic," she said, adding she'd figure out later how to get home.

Phebe Jackson, a retired sanitation technician who attended Obama’s inauguration in Washington, said relatives drove her to USC from her home in Diamond Bar. They found no extra problems on the road, she said.

"It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, no more than a normal weekday commute," she said. 

After the USC rally, the president is scheduled to visit Glendale to tape an interview with Spanish-language radio host Eddie Piolin, according to the White House.

Glendale police said Friday morning that they anticipate a temporary road closure along Central Avenue near the 134 Freeway, where the Univision facility is located, but CHP said no freeway would be shut for more than a couple of minutes as the presidential motorcade moves through.

Obama is scheduled to arrive in Glendale at 3:25 p.m., leave at 4:05 p.m. and then depart directly for LAX to leave the Los Angeles area.

Early Friday morning, Los Angeles police said there were no major traffic problems other than slowing because of the rain. But they were bracing for snarls.

The closures will affect Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between Figueroa Street and Vermont Avenue; Vermont between Martin Luther King Jr. and Exposition Boulevard; Figueroa between Martin Luther King Jr. and 39th Street; and Exposition Boulevard between Vermont and Figueroa.

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, several bus lines will be affected.

The most likely to be detoured will be the 40, 42 and 740 on Martin Luther King, the 102 and 550 on Exposition, the 204 and 754 on Vermont and the 81 on Figueroa, the MTA said.

White House Deputy Communications Director Jen Psaki was quoted by City News Service as saying officials there were trying to reduce the effect on traffic during Obama's visits after much criticism over traffic jams when he last visited L.A.

"Presidential travel is more complicated with more pieces than most people are aware of,'' she said. "We certainly do everything we can to minimize any negative impact it could have to any community. Our hope is always we can keep any disruption to a minimum.''

-- Larry Gordon at USC and Andrew Blankstein in Los Angeles

Photo: President Obama boards Marine One at Los Angeles International Airport. Earlier, he offered a wave after touching down aboard Air Force One. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times