A temporary mesh suicide barrier will go up on the Vista Bridge this summer, City Commissioner Steve Novick announced this morning.
In a post on Novick's City Council blog, he announces that a 9-foot screen will be put in place immediately and remain until long term funding can be found.
Novick, who oversees Portland's Bureau of Transportation, has been working on a way to help prevent suicides on the historic Southwest Portland bridge. There have been three suicides there since January, the last being a 15-year-old Beaverton girl who leaped to her death in June. A permanent barrier could cost about $2.5 million—money the city doesn't have right now.
Novick is using a provision in the city code to declare an emergency when the public's safety is endangered, the blog says.
“Unfortunately, this beautiful and elegant bridge has been known as Suicide Bridge since its construction in the 1920s.” Novick says in the blog post. “It is time – past time – to stop the dying.”
Here's more details from his post:
Construction of the screen mesh fence will begin in mid-July and take approximately two weeks at a cost of about $236,000. To deter climbing, the barrier is designed with a tight weave and a curved overhang. It will be installed along the inside of the railing and can be removed at any time with no permanent impact on the structure, in keeping with the bridge’s designation as a National Historic Landmark.
Tapani Inc, a company with expertise in bridgework and historic structures, including its recent work on the Vista House in the Columbia River Gorge, has been tapped to install the fence. The bridge will remain open during the installation, with crews narrowing the extra-wide lanes to create a construction zone and allow normal traffic flow in both directions. One sidewalk will remain open at all times.
For the long term, the City will continue to work with the State Historic Preservation Office on a solution that meets historic design guidelines and seek federal or other funding for the estimated $2.5 million to $3 million cost of a durable structure that would be consistent with the historic character of the bridge, a process that is expected to take two years or longer.