Vertical barriers and end modifications called ‘only effective way’ to stop suicide attempts; task force will present to Public Safety Committee in March
Published : Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | 5:41 AM
The Colorado Street Bridge Task Force announced at a public meeting Tuesday evening it will recommend the Pasadena City Council immediately begin to implement a number of specific deterrents to prevent suicides at the Colorado Street Bridge.
Calling the project his “mission,” Pasadena Public Works Director Ara Maloyan outlined the first steps of the project, beginning with new bridge signage that will incorporate a Suicide Crisis Line number as well as a text-messaging number for persons on or near the bridge who are considering jumping.
Patricia Speelman, Division Director of the Suicide Prevention Center at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, told the meeting that “Sometimes just the slightest communication or human interaction can cause someone to think about what they’re doing and perhaps change their mind” about jumping.
The Task Force is scheduled to deliver a presentation and timeline to the Public Safety Committee in March, followed by its formal recommendation to the City Council in April. Its report will come after more than six months of public meetings and input from the 15-member task force itself.
The Task Force is made up of representatives from Pasadena’s historic preservation community, first responders and public health sectors, and architects and engineers.
According to the Task Force plan presented Tuesday night, following the implementation of the signage, City staff will then generate a Request for Proposals to select a design consultant to create a vertical barrier design concept, along with its required environmental studies.
The Task Force will hold public meetings “at critical steps in the design process” for the public to have a voice in the final design, Maloyan said.
The final design and construction of the project will incorporate full-length vertical barriers with a minimum height of 7 feet, six inches, which will run the entire length of the bridge, including end treatments.
The end treatments, which would limit access to the outside of the bridge at each end, will “deter a person’s ability to walk to the outside ledge where a jump would cause serious injury or death,” said the Task Force report.
Currently, the bridge’s 20 alcoves, which provide access to a narrow outer walkway, are covered in temporary 10-feet tall fencing, ordered in July, 2017 following a sudden spike in the number of suicide attempts.
According to Maloyan, no one has successfully climbed the temporary fences. Nonetheless, there have been suicide jumps since the fencing’s installation.
The Task Force called the physical barriers and end treatments the only effective measure against leaping off the Bridge, but also developed a series of “complementary measures” to incorporate along with the barriers. These measures would include planting trees in the Arroyo beneath the bridge, netting below the bridge, and modifications to the bridge ledges, along with cameras, motion sensors, intercoms and speakers, and volunteer patrols.
The complementary measures may be considered after the construction of the barriers, although local resident Dianne Philibosian urged the trees be planted immediately.
Robin Salzer, whose bridge-adjacent home has commanding views of the structure, also suggested planters be built along the narrow, 7-inch outside edge of the bridge to deter people from walking out on the ledge or jumping from it.
As Maloyan pointed out, however, many of the impediments considered for the outer edge, such as constructing slopes or angles, also make it difficult for would-be jumpers to “come back” to safety.
Maloyan said he feels confident that the plan would be accepted by the Public Safety Committee as well as the City Council.
“This is my mission,” he said. “I have thought of little else. If this doesn’t work, this is on me, but where there is a will, there is a way.”
Maloyan also told the meeting that there is no budget recommendation for the design phase of the project.
“I don’t want to limit anyone’s creativity by having a budget figure hanging over their heads,” He said.
Maloyan noted that a budget will be discussed in detail prior to the construction phase.
The task force will present its recommendations to the Public Safety Committee on March 21.