Pentagon Makes Grand Entrance, Opens New Metro Entrance Facility
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2002 Although its aesthetics are quite pleasing, it still lacks the opulence of Grand Central.
However, grandeur was not the reason Department of Defense officials spent $37 million on a new Metro Entrance Facility at the Pentagon.
Today during a grand opening ceremony at the Pentagon, project leaders talked mainly of the safety and security the new facility would provide for the more than 25,000 people who pass through the Pentagon each day. The Metro, the Washington area's major public transit system, serves the building with two of its five subway lines and a spider web of bus routes.
"Even before 9-11, the original subway entrance into the Pentagon was a long threat tube right into the heart of the building," said Ray DuBois, director of administration and management for the Pentagon. He praised the new facility as the "Grand Central Station of Northern Virginia."
"Security for the building and the people entering the building was the principal driving factor," he said.
The ceremony brought to a close the final phase of a congressionally mandated Pentagon security upgrade. Work on the facility had started long before Sept. 11, 2001, but the terrorist attack on the building that day increased the impetus to finish.
Now, with its opening, the new facility immediately becomes Northern Virginia's largest bus-to-rail transfer point.
"This building was quite a concept and greatly enhances the security of the people who work here," said John Pugrud, deputy chief of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. "It was truly amazing for this (project) team to come up with a concept, put it on paper, then get it built.
One security upgrade was to move the existing rail platform entrance farther from the Pentagon. The new station was designed to allow security screening well before visitors enter the building.
To handle the thousands of commuters, the facility has four escalators and two elevators that lead from the rail platform to the surface level of the Pentagon. It sports access ramps for disabled individuals.
Covered walkways with windscreens provide shelter from the weather, while closed circuit television monitoring, emergency call stations and better lighting increase the station's safety and security.
The new facility also houses the Pentagon tour office, and has a large, seated waiting area, a surround-sound theater and exhibits from all the services.
"This has been real fulfilling project. Architecturally and functionally it's turned out to be fantastic," said Tom Schwieger, an operations manager for one of the construction companies on the project. "Realizing that you were a part of making the Pentagon a safer and better place to work is a sobering experience."
In a related event, after the Metro dedication, DuBois accepted a special award in recognition for the Pentagon's investment in blast- resistant windows and other protective measures that have been credited with saving lives during the terrorist attack.
The award was presented by Protecting People First, a nonprofit organization founded by Aren Almon-Kok, whose daughter was killed by shrapnel when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Okla., was bombed in 1995.
The portions of the Pentagon damaged and destroyed by the crash of a terrorist-hijacked airliner had just been totally renovated. New features added included windows coated with a blast-resistant, protective glazing at a cost of $10,000 each. The same protective glazing was installed on windows at the new Metro facility.
DuBois said the high-tech windows kept the area hit by the airliner from collapsing for almost 35 minutes. Because of that extra time, a lot of people had the opportunity to escape, he said.
"Some do not think these extra measures were necessary," DuBois said, alluding to the cost. "Our people are far more valuable than the price of a window and on 9-11, the windows clearly paid for themselves in a matter of seconds."
Almon-Kok said her foundation chose the Pentagon for the award because the DoD had taken the extra step to protect the thousands who work there.
"People need to make a safer environment for their employees and patrons," she said. "We owe that to the people who work for us, and to protect them at all cost -- that's what the Pentagon has done."