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Inauguration Preparations Begin In Earnest In D.C.

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In front of the White House, construction of the reviewing stands for the inauguration is already underway.
Patrick Madden
In front of the White House, construction of the reviewing stands for the inauguration is already underway.

D.C. is getting ready for next month's presidential inauguration. From the parties to the packed Metro cars, every four years the city plays host to hundreds of thousands of visitors.

In front of the White House, crews are quickly working to set up one of the presidential viewing stands right in front of the White House. Crew members have already setup about 30 to 40 feet of scaffolding, and everywhere you look around here, the city is getting ready for next months inauguration.

"For planning purposes, we are looking at numbers in the area of 600,000 to 800,000 people," says Chris Geldart, head of D.C.'s Homeland Security and Emergency Managment Agency.

During the last go-around in 2009, approximately 1.5 million people came to D.C. for inauguration festivities. Authorities are expecting nearly half the number of visitors in 2013.

One sign, Geldart says, is the number of buses that have been booked to travel to D.C. for inauguration.

"At this time, we are aware of 370 bus reservations," Geldart says.

Four years, ago that figure was over a thousand. But even with a smaller attendance, the crowds will tax D.C.'s infastructure — particularly the public transit system.

Metro says it will start running trains at 4 a.m. The agency will also charge for parking on the way out, not on the way in to avoid parking backups seen four years ago at several Metro stations. 

The bottom line, says Metro's Lynn Bowersox, is that the transit system will be ready, regardless of crowd size.

"If we get a million, we're ready," Bowersox says. "We are not basing this on the 800,000 — that's what people are telling us to expect — but this is the same level of effort as if we were going to support a million and a half."

And all of those visitors coming to D.C. will be good for business. In one of the many souvenir shops selling White House memorabilia along 15th street, it's already packed, and it's still weeks before inauguration.

Restaurants and bars are expected to do big business when all of those visitors are here, as well. D.C. says that during inauguration week, certain bars will be allowed to stay open and serve alcohol until 4 a.m. to help boost that bottom line.

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