REGION

Officials Push for Later Metro Hours

Elected officials from the District and Prince George's and Montgomery counties held a news conference at the Takoma Park Metro station yesterday to push a plan that would change the weekend closing hour for Metrorail and Metrobus from midnight to 2 a.m.

"We've got an ad hoc coalition of environmentalists, business, public safety groups, who all think this is a sensible, safe and smart move," said state Del. William A. Bronrott (D-Montgomery), who was joined by Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D), D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Del. Rushern L. Baker III (D-Prince George's), among others. "We all agree it would be good for business, the environment, tourism, late-night jobs and, overall, our quality of life. We're no longer a company town that rolls up the sidewalks at 5 p.m. We're a vibrant region," he said.

Metro officials are expected to take up the issue Thursday. Adding two hours to the weekend schedule for trains and buses would mean an additional $3.9 million in annual operating costs and a one-time capital expense of $1.1 million, according to Metro.

Metro officials estimate the extra service hours would generate 7,200 new trips on Friday nights and 7,600 on Saturdays.

Metro to Begin Adams-Morgan Shuttle

Beginning Saturday, Metro will run an evening bus shuttle from Metro stations at Woodley Park/Adams-Morgan and U Street-Cardozo to the heart of Adams-Morgan along 18th Street NW. Metro officials say the service is intended to ease parking problems in Adams-Morgan, a popular destination that is not located directly on the subway system.

Two buses will run every 15 minutes from 6 p.m. to midnight on Sundays through Fridays and from 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays. The buses, which hold 22 passengers and will be known as "the Link," will run from Woodley Park down Calvert Street, 18th Street, U Street and Ninth Street to the U Street Metro station and will stop at designated points along the way.

To encourage ridership and celebrate the inauguration of service, Metro is offering free service on the Link from Saturday until Oct. 2. After that, regular Metrobus fares will take be charged -- $1.10 one way or 25 cents with a rail transfer.

DISTRICT

Smoke Brings Firefighters to Chancery

A smoky haze filled most of the chancery at the British Embassy complex on Massachusetts Avenue NW late last night after insulation smoldered in a wall of a utility room, authorities said.

Six firetrucks and a rescue squad responded to a call from the five-story building about 11:30 p.m., said battalion Fire Chief George McDuffie. It took firefighters about 30 minutes to find the source of the "slight haze," and they quickly extinguished the smoldering with a portable extinguisher. A fire never broke out, he said.

Man Dies in Fall From Taft Bridge

A Northwest Washington man died after falling off the William Howard Taft Memorial Bridge on Connecticut Avenue NW in what police suspect was a suicide.

The 37-year-old man, whose identity was not released, landed on concrete near gas pumps in Rock Creek Park used by uniformed Secret Service police, said Capt. Marcus Westover of the 2nd Police District. The body was discovered by a Secret Service officer who was fueling his car shortly after 11 p.m., Westover said.

Police closed the bridge for about two hours as they investigated.

"We don't have any reason to believe foul play was involved," said Sgt. Michael Farish. The man had been carrying a backpack with clothes and a day planner inside, Farish said.

Gun Ban Goes on Takoma Park Ballot

The Takoma Park City Council voted unanimously last night to place a two-part advisory question on the November ballot to determine the city's support for a ban on handguns.

The move was in response to a petition drive that may place a question on the same ballot to ban ownership, sale and possession of handguns within the city limits.

A handgun ban would be unique in Maryland, but state law prohibits local jurisdictions from regulating guns. Council members fear that if voters approve the petitioners' measure, the ban would be unenforceable and could draw a lawsuit from gun-owner groups.

But the council delayed for one week a decision on whether to support the petitioners' ballot question, which would amend the City Charter. City lawyers will meet with a lawyer for the petitioners this week to determine whether a legal argument could be made to support a gun ban. If the council opposes the petitioners' ballot question, the city would have to seek a legal injunction to prevent it from appearing in November.

As an alternative, the council placed a non-binding measure on the ballot that would ask voters whether state law should be changed to allow Takoma Park and other jurisdictions to ban handguns. The question's second part asks whether Takoma Park should ban handguns if state law changes to allow the city to do so.

Acupuncture Offered in Drug Treatment

Health officials in Frederick County are offering acupuncture to drug addicts as a way to help ease withdrawal.

Along with counseling, education and medical care, drug abusers can get stuck with needles as they try to kick the habit.

Alice McCormick, a nationally board-certified acupuncturist licensed to practice in Maryland, began working for the health department's substance abuse program this summer.

She said the traditional Chinese medicine helps substance abusers deal with the cravings for drugs. McCormick makes two visits to the health department a week and sees as many as a dozen clients per day. For substance abuse clients, McCormick inserts five sterile needles in different spots on the ear.

VIRGINIA

Boats, Storage Unit Destroyed in Fire

A fire gutted a boat storage facility in Virginia Beach, destroying the 540 boats inside, fire officials said.

About 65 firefighters battled the three-alarm blaze late Sunday, and two were treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation, Capt. Gary Weidner, a fire department spokesman, said yesterday.

A dollar estimate of the damage to the Lynnhaven Marine Boatel was not immediately available, but Weidner said the 450-by-250-foot building and its contents were a total loss.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"You can't push a beach ball through a garden hose."

-- 1st Sgt. Kenneth Thrasher, of the Maryland State Police, on massive traffic problems at the Redskins game on Sunday. -- Page A1