Council Approves Funds for Consultant to Start Planning Colorado Street Bridge Suicide Mitigation Project

San Francisco-based company will create design, engineering and construction plans for 2020 construction of suicide deterrent

Published : Tuesday, May 21, 2019 | 4:41 AM

Images representing a number of suggestions for preventing suicides on the Colorado Street Bridge have included barrier end treatments, picket extensions, safety netting, fine-mesh chain link fencing, and wire strand installations. Images courtesy City of Pasadena

The Pasadena City Council Monday unanimously approved $500,000 to fund the first stages of a suicide mitigation project for the Colorado Street Bridge.

The contract, with Donald McDonald Architects, is the result of a Colorado Street Bridge task force created in 2017 by Pasadena Public Works Director Ara Maloyan, to develop a solution, following a sudden rash of suicide attempts from the bridge that spring and summer.

The City held a number of packed, often-emotional community meetings to discuss solutions.

Concerns continued to grow following the 2018 opening of a new Habitat for Humanity housing development and the new Desiderio Park, both located under the bridge.

Maloyan told the council, “We wanted to create options that would be amiable to the stakeholders and the community at large.”

Councilmember John Kennedy, saying that the issue of suicide had affected his family personally, told the council, “We want to do everything we can to prevent suicide, whether it’s that particular bridge or any other area in our community.”

According to Maloyan’s presentation, work on the contract would begin in October of this year with an environmental design and preliminary engineering meeting with the City’s Historic Preservation Commission.

He said the goal is to begin construction of the final design in August of 2020.

On April 23, 2018, the City Council unanimously approved suicide prevention measures—a vertical barrier system—recommended by the task force. That decision eventually resulted in 10-foot high temporary fencing along the entire length of the bridge in September 2018.

In October of 2018, the City then issued a request for proposal, known as an RFP, seeking new designs and ideas, eventually choosing the McDonald company. The contract will retain the company for professional design services only.

Without a final design to go by, Maloyan estimated that the final project might cost $3 million.

As he told the Council Monday, the McDonald firm “demonstrated distinct strengths, resources, and capacities such as expertise in suicide deterrent systems installed on iconic bridges, acknowledgement and consideration of the sensitive nature of the project, emphasis on community involvement and public outreach, and overall understanding of the process to develop a suicide deterrent system on a historic, iconic, and highly visible bridge.”

The San Francisco-based company specializes in architectural design of both new and historic bridges. Among its projects are Indiana’s Ohio River Bridge – East End Crossing, the Tilikum Crossing Bridge in Portland, Oregon, and the 1-80 Berkeley Pedestrian Bicycle Overpass in Berkeley.

Its founding principal architect, Donald MacDonaId, has also worked on several well-known bridges that implemented mitigation efforts such as the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge (a.k.a. Cooper River Bridge) in Charleston, SC, and the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge in Vancouver, BC.

The company will partner with Biggs Cardosa Associates, and Galvin Preservation Associates, Inc, (GPA, Inc.) a structural engineering firm that specializes in the design, seismic retrofit, modification and rehabilitation of bridges. GPA also worked on a 1993 retrofit of the Colorado Street bridge.

GPA also worked on historically-significant Pasadena bridge projects such as the La Loma Road Bridge Rehabilitation project, and according to the City staff report, is currently working on the Holly Street Bridge Seismic Retrofit project, as a sub-consultant.

“The objective of the vertical barrier,” said the Public Works staff report, “is to add a safety and health protection system to an existing structure that does not cause a substantial adverse change in the significance of the Colorado Street Bridge, a historical resource,”

MacDonald Architects will, over the next six months, complete an investigation and site survey of the bridge, prepare project-level environmental reports, and develop alternatives and the conceptual design of a preferred vertical barrier. As part of this process, the preferred concept will be vetted through a public forum during presentations to the City’s Historic Preservation Commission and the Design Commission, said the staff report.

While no design concepts have been submitted, Maloyan cited his “own personal experience,” and told the council that he hoped the system would be “prefabricated beforehand, and then installed onto the bridge quickly,” to reduce impact on local traffic of the installation.

Following a short series of Design Commission meetings in November and December of 2019, the approved design would come before the City Council in late December of this year.

Design and construction documents would be finalized in April 2020, according to the staff report, and the City would then review bids and award a construction contract by July 2020. With budget approval, construction is scheduled to begin in August of 2020.

“The specific design and subsequent construction of capital improvement projects will be subject to appropriate project-Ievel environmental review at the time each is brought forward for first discretionary action,” the staff report noted.