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Pentagon grapples with how to move tanks from a Washington railway to the National Mall

A worker machine washes a military tank in a railroad at Anacostia Park on Tuesday before the 4th of July celebration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. (Matt McClain / Washington Post)

Michael Rollinson rolled around a beaten path on Washington's Anacostia Riverwalk Trail on his bike Tuesday, coming to a stop on a trail overlooking train tracks. He had found his target for pictures: Tanks and other hulking military vehicles are sitting on railway wagons.

Rollinson, a district resident, made the trip on a steaming afternoon after listening to television that the thoughts had arrived in Washington as part of an extended 4th of July celebration commissioned by President Trump. Rollinson said when he learned that his thoughts were stashed at a CSX yard in southeast Washington, he figured he might see them from the bike path.

"It's a little over the top," said Rollinson, speaking over steel screams as a train rolled off on a track below. "A lot of things the president does is a bit over the top. But I think military hardware is cool so I'm interested in it. I understand that many people are not and I understand the reservations others have. I respect it . "

The scene captured the unusual character of what comes: Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles will be trucked to the mall, which will be shown under an extravaganza, which will also show performances from military bands, drilling teams and a rare collection of aircraft. which is expected to include B-2 stealth bomber and F-22 fighter.

But perhaps no part of the event has polarized people more than the use of two M1A2 Abrams tanks, weighing about 70 tons each and shipped by rail from Fort Stewart in Georgia. Their anticipated appearance has caused some critics to compare the celebration to something more common in a dictator-led nation such as North Korea, while others express excitement in the planned military power display.

Part of the concern is that the vehicles will pulverize pavements in Washington as they did during a parade in June 1991 after the Gulf War and that the city will be left with the bill. This time, the tanks will be stationary and moved into place on flat screens pulled by heavy trucks.

May Christian Mitchell, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said Tuesday in an email that the truck's movement will be coordinated with the transport department and done in a way to "protect the streets of the district." The exact place they will be located, he said, "Is still under consideration."

The scene that takes shape on the railroad gave a clarity. Massive trucks pulling flat wagons rolled past softball courts in Anacostia Park on a dirt road leading to tanks, painted green and Bradley Fighting Vehicles, painted desert brown. A worker in a neon yellow T-shirt and a red, white and blue safety helmet pressed armor armor while standing on one of the tanks.

In a relatively deserted part of the park few people passed by and even fewer noticed the play below. Several news photographers made the bike path, which took pictures, and the police occasionally appeared overhead in helicopters and in the shipyard during cruises.

Several active and retired chiefs who have been working on tanks said transporting them to downtown Washington would be complicated, but that could be done without causing significant damage.

Thomas Spoehr, a retired general who is now director of the Heritage Foundation Center for National Defense, said soldiers are trained not to tear the way on bases such as Fort Stewart when transporting tanks. While some roads cannot handle the weight of a tank on a large rig, most large ones can be modern, especially when the pressure is distributed across many decks on a flatbed.

"The thought sort of hangs on a smidge on both sides, so it takes more than one lane when you drive," Spoehr said. "You want to do it in a time of low traffic."

The army has a particularly large rig with a trailer made by Oshkosh Defense to carry Abram's thoughts on roads. Known as the Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET), it has a "low boy" trailer that allows tanks and other vehicles to roll on. There are also civil equivalents that could carry thought, Spoehr said.

One thing to see, he added: turns in the city. If a trailer wheel rolls over a sidewalk, he said, "You'll crush it."

An active armored officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the operation's sensitivity predicted that the perimeter surrounding the Lincoln memorial could be closed when the tanks were delivered so that they could be removed and run a short distance alone.

"Most roads and concrete are not strong enough to handle the amount of weight that runs over it consistently, and there is contact of metal tracks on the road surface wherever the rubber tracks are worn down," said the officer. "A few runs in one day would not be as much of a problem as saying, a whole parade. But you will still limit how much time these vehicles spend on driving on regular roads or concrete."

Trump Speaking of Monday's thoughts seemed to recognize that their location would require thought.

"You have to be pretty careful about the mind because the roads tend not to like the heavy tanks," he said. "So we need to put them in specific areas."

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