White House Getting a Bigger, Stronger Fence

WASHINGTON — The fence surrounding the White House is probably the most visited fence in D.C. — and it’s about to get taller and stronger.

The National Capital Planning Commission gave final approval to several design changes, a year in the making, in a voice vote Thursday afternoon.

Security officials have long attested the White House fence needed an upgrade for security reasons.

“The overall height will be 13 feet, 1 inch including the stone base. The fence is 10 feet, 7 inches and anti-climbing measures at the top complete the design,” said Matt Flis, a senior urban designer with the commission.

Flis designed the fence working with the U.S. Secret Service and the National Park Service. The fence itself will be 5 feet taller than the existing one and will include ram-proof gates. The final design does not include large pillars around pedestrian entrances in an attempt to improve the view for visitors.

“The staff saw that as one way to preserve the transparency between the public space and the White House grounds,” Flis said.

U.S. Secret Service officers have been positioned outside and along the fence since 2014, when a man with a knife scaled the fence and made it to the second floor of the White House before being detained by agents, spokeswoman Nicole Mainor confirmed.

Since then, bike racks have also been positioned in front of the fence to prevent future jumpers. But they further distance visitors from the fence and from taking a clear picture of the White House.

The Commission of Fine Arts weighed in on the new fence design, including the ironwork at the entrance. However, the planning commission suggested and ultimately voted to approve the more secure crash-rated entrances, which feature a panel of steel at the base rather than ironwork.

Retractable bollards — short posts to block traffic — were removed from the design. A crash-rated gate to prevent traffic onto Pennsylvania Avenue will replace them.

Contracting for the removal and replacement of the fence is now underway with a goal of construction in 2018, confirmed Jeremy Barnum with the U.S. Park Service.

See the power point presentation of the plan here.

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