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President Obama visit snarls Westside traffic

August 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
President Barack Obama is on his way to Seattle after a 17-hour fundraising visit to Los Angeles, but his departure turned Westside traffic into gridlock on Tuesday.Major streets were closed as Obama left, and drivers weren't too happy.

"The president may have gotten $1 million out of Los Angeles but he created a lot of frustration among the people who couldn't move around, so we don't want to see this happen again to the president or anybody else who comes to Los Angeles," said Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl.

Rosendahl is calling on the Los Angeles Police Department and the department of transportation to develop a protocol to lessen the traffic tie-ups during presidential visits.

In a statement, Edwin Donovan of the U.S. Secret Service said, "The Secret Service works very hard with our law enforcement partners to have the least impact possible on traffic and to make street closures as brief as possible."

But drivers involved said it was anything but brief.

"They shut down these major streets like Wilshire, and they shut down Olympic, I mean, that's like shutting down two freeways, it's insane," said one motorist.

Frustrated drivers tried to make it to work, weaving through side streets and doing everything possible to avoid the backup caused by Obama's exit.

"I looped around for like 15 minutes, and then I just stopped back here and waited," said David Weisberg of Beverly Hills.

The president left from the Beverly Hilton at about 8:30 a.m., leaving motorists stranded for the better part of an hour.

It was a double whammy for residents in the area who also had deal with road closures when the president arrived on Monday for a fundraiser benefit.

"Yesterday was murder getting out of my building," said motorist Evelyn Rodriguez.

The gridlock had many wondering if all it was really worth it.

"I just don't understand why he can't just take a helicopter and land on the roof and not disrupt this so completely," said Gabriella Stollenwerck of Beverly Hills.

Strained traffic conditions may have added to the president's public image problem.

His approval ratings remain down. According to an exclusive Eyewitness News poll conducted by SurveyUSA, 50 percent of Californians approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while 46 percent disapprove.

But Obama didn't lose popularity with all drivers stuck in traffic.

"This was really annoying, but you know, it's what it is. I voted for Obama, I love him," Stollenwerck said.

The president's quick visit raised funds for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. It was his fourth trip to L.A. since taking office.

Obama will rally for Sen. Pat Murray of Washington on Tuesday before heading on to Ohio and Miami on Wednesday for more fundraising events before his return to the White House.


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