May 24, 2010 9:08 AMTall, black cyclone fencing and dark screen barriers are in place on the White House north lawn as a long-anticipated utility improvement project gets underway.
(Credit: CBS/ Peter Maer)
It will be a big dig on a wide swath of the postcard-scene lawn just to the left of what is often seen as the front door to the White House. Officials say antiquated utility connections must be replaced. The work is creating a new maze for White House staffers, official guests and media personnel who work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The traditional entrance through what is known as the Northwest Gate will be blocked by the work. That means diplomatic motorcades will be directed to other routes instead of the traditional West Wing entrance where Marines stand watch.
Media types and others arriving at the gate are being directed to a sidewalk that approaches the White House Portico, but they won't enter through that hallowed doorway. Instead, under the always-watchful eye of the Secret Service, they'll walk down a flight of outdoor steps that lead to the briefing room level.
There's talk of erecting a temporary platform so that TV crews beaming reports from the familiar North Lawn scene will be able to shoot an unobstructed view over the construction work.
Tourists outside the White House fence will likely readjust their camera shots to get a "clean view" of the majestic North Portico.
Dozens of construction workers lined up outside the White House for security clearances so they could begin the project.
Peter Maer is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.
Maze of Obama, by Yonatan Frimer