What Happens When The President’s Motorcade Rolls Through Town?

Campaign season is over, and the United States is therefore blessed in two ways: less angry TV and a lesser likelihood that a giant pain in the neck known as the presidential motorcade will come rolling through your town.

On the down side, there’s less of a chance that you’ll get to see the president in person, but on the bright side, there’s less of a chance you’ll end up late to work. If you’ve ever seen the motorcade, then you are aware of its elaborate nature, a sort of military-style Macy’s parade with about twice the intrusion.

In order for the presidential motorcade to make an appearance, first the nearest military installation is prepped and secured for the President’s visit. This means that no one gets on base that morning, and anyone “hanging around” the perimeter will be shooed off more readily than normal. Further, any structures within view of the airstrip or tarmac will be secured, including private property.

Next, the vehicles used in the motorcade are flown in via a C-130 cargo jet. There are usually twelve cars used for the motorcade, including those for the president’s security, press, and staff. In addition, the Secret Service will select four local emergency vehicles and personnel to bookend the procession, including three police cars and an ambulance.

Advance teams of White House support staff and various other political operatives will set up stops for the president on the way to his primary engagement. These stops are voluntary, and it is up to the owners of these businesses and residences to receive the president or not. At times, they choose not. If they choose to receive him, the Secret Service must then secure these locations, which include the location itself and all surrounding structures, homes, businesses, and public areas in the vicinity such as street and sidewalks.

Air Force One or Marine One decoys will then fly the president and his staff into the prepped military installation, where the tarmac has been blocked off, the press corps has been set up, local officials are waiting, political operatives are stationed, and the endless line of television satellite trucks is parked. The media attendance at these events alone is enough to stop traffic on occasion.

The route to the president’s stops is then cleared and blocked off. This can include blocking off major secondary roads, busy downtown intersections and crosswalks, and even entire sections of major interstates. The Secret Service will coordinate this through local authorities and the State Police – a process which involves physical barricades, traffic cops, crowd control, and surveillance personnel. Then, after all this is in place, the motorcade finally begins to roll.

There is significant set-up time required for these events, and all measures must remain in place until the president’s visit has concluded, whereupon the entire process is again executed, this time in reverse, while the president is backed out of town the same way he came in. This can take all day. So, you could potentially be stuck in traffic not only on the way to work but on the way home from work as well.

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Chris Turberville-Tully works with H.R. Owen, a car dealership specializing in luxury vehicles, including used Ferrari and used Maseratis.