The District has completed an eight-foot-high suicide prevention fence along the Duke Ellington Bridge. Community leaders and business groups have long been at odds over the best way to stop people from leaping to their deaths from the span high above Rock Creek Park.
The fence was finished Jan. 28 at a cost of $150,000, according to a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Public Works.
Mayor Marion Barry halted construction of the fence in September after City Council member Frank A. Smith Jr. (D-Ward 1) complained that it was too high. But the mayor ordered construction crews back to the bridge just before Christmas after three suicides occurred at the span -- also known as the Calvert Street bridge -- in less than two weeks.
Fence opponents had argued that it would spoil the view of the park and that would-be suicides would just go elsewhere. Earlier this month, a man jumped off the nearby William Howard Taft Bridge, the Connecticut Avenue span over the park.
In the last eight years, 39 persons have jumped off the Ellington or Taft bridges, officials say. The public works spokeswoman said the Taft Bridge is scheduled for a complete face lifting, including construction of a new and possibly higher railing, but not until 1987.