Residents Meet With City-Appointed Consultant to Explore Designs for Colorado Bridge Suicide Prevention Barriers

Published : Friday, September 27, 2019 | 4:45 AM

Local residents Thursday night attended the first of several meetings to provide input to a San Francisco firm that will place vertical barriers on the Colorado Street Bridge as part of a suicide mitigation plan.

“I want the bridge to go back to the way it was,” said local preservationist Tom Seifert. “But that’s not going to happen.”

At Monday’s meeting officials with the Donald McDonald firm gave a presentation on the history of alterations to the bridge before the 50 members in the audience met in groups to discuss the changes they wanted to see.

Another public meeting will be held on Oct. 24. In December the selected design will go to the Public Safety Committee before finally appearing for final approval before the City Council.

Currently the City hopes the project will be reviewed at a Council meeting in January.

The firm has worked on several well-known bridges that implemented mitigation efforts such as the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Charleston, (South Carolina), and Ironworkers Memorial Bridge in Vancouver, (British Columbia),” according to the staff report.

“We did suicide mitigation on the Golden Gate Bridge,” McDonald said. “We studied a lot of other bridges for that project including the Colorado Street Bridge. It’s a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge.”

The firm has already met with first responders to discuss requirements that would still allow them to retrieve potential jumpers if they got over the vertical barriers.

One of the biggest challenge may be designing barriers that will please local preservationists, who are hoping that barriers will not hurt the aesthetics of the bridge.

More than 150 people have jumped from the 106-year-old bridge since the Great Depression, according to city officials, with more than 30 of those deaths reported since 2006. Most of those jumps occurred from the alcoves along the bridge’s walkways, where access over the existing metal railings is easier.

Three people jumped from the bridge in 2018, and eight people fell to their deaths in 2017.

Later that year, temporary suicide-prevention fencing was placed in the bridge’s alcoves. In September 2018, the situation took on added urgency after police spent 13 hours successfully talking a jumper down during Labor Day weekend.

After that marathon encounter, City Manager Steve Mermell exercised his authority to make an emergency purchase and spent $295,932 on fencing to span the entire length of both sides of the 1,400-foot-long bridge.

“We can’t wait for another year while we grind our way through the approval process and funding process. We need to do something,” Mermell said at the time. “It’s an emergency and we need to intervene right now.”

After several public meetings, the Colorado Street Bridge Task Force concluded that vertical barriers and fencing at the ends are the only deterrent measures that physically prevent suicide attempts from occurring. The Task Force was made up of preservationists, engineers and first responders.

Vertical barriers are also considered cost efficient because of the one-time construction fee, and require little ongoing costs.












According to that recommendation, barriers will also lessen the strain on first responders.


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