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Fence installation on Aurora Bridge

By Geeky Swedes · April 1st, 2009 · 21 Comments

A recent increase in the number of suicide attempts from the Aurora Ave. bridge and comments from people who live and work in the densely populated area compelled the City of Seattle, King County, WSDOT and community members to take action.

WSDOT is designing a fence to deter people from jumping off of the bridge. This effort follows the city of Seattle’s installation of signs and phones on the Aurora Bridge in 2006 to connect people directly to a suicide hotline.

The project received design funding during the 2008 legislative session. Design work started in spring 2008. We expect the construction phase to start in late 2009, although actual fence installation won’t begin until early 2010 because of the time it will take to manufacture the fence. Construction would be complete by the end of 2010.

On Sunday, March 29, WSDOT attached a mockup of a fence panel to the bridge for evaluation. Click here to view photos of this fence.

  • Sheila

    That’s great news!

  • P.A.B.L.O

    Maybe I’m missing something, but how will a fence constructed in this manner prevent people from jumping?

  • Anthony C

    I’m no acrobat, but I’m pretty sure I could jump that sucker if I wanted.

  • Warren Talbot

    Does anyone here have access to data on the number of suicides in Seattle last year and what percentage were made via the Aurora Bridge? This seems like a lot of investment in addressing a symptom of the problem versus using all this money for actual outreach to people who are depressed. I would expect that the number of handgun suicides last year was exponentially more than people jumping off the bridge yet we seem unwilling to take greater steps toward gun control.

    Could we use this funding to save many, many more lives if we focused on reaching a much broader audience versus trying to prevent one method of committing suicide? I would rather we look at the big picture than focus on the more public face of suicide and commit to addressing the root cause and not erecting a fence and thinking we made a difference with our tax dollars.

    • http://www.seattlefriends.org autumn

      http://www.seattlefriends.org

      This website documents all of the data we used throughout this process. The Aurora Bridge is the #2 structure from which people commit suicide in all of North America, second only to the GG Bridge in SF. My personal passion about this barrier stems from seeing over ten broken bodies in front of me on my way to or from work over the past couple of years. Those are just the ones I saw, and I tell you what– I try not to see any of it, but with the frequency it’s inevitable. There were probably 25 in the past three years that died, and a few who survived. True, many more people kill themselves by any number of other means, but this has crossed a line and also creates a serious public safety issue (the heavily used Burke Gilman trail crosses twice under the bridge) people have landed on cars that were in motion, next to a mother pushing a baby stroller, right in front of my boss walking in to the office- the emotional damage I have seen and experienced because of this bridge is astounding, and I understand that people removed from the area have a different perspective. But $7 million out of the transportation budget (even if you could allocate the funds to mental health, which you can’t) wouldn’t be a drop in the bucket as far as what is needed in our area with the number of disabled homeless alone, not to mention all of the rest of us. There does need to be something done to address the root cause, and if there was a bill on the ballot I would support it. But I cannot have another image burned into my mind of a young girl, crumpled and lifeless, or the clean up crews that spend the day trying to erase the trace of death from my parking lot. Every morning when I drive into my building, I can still see the man in the blue jacket clinging to the outside of the railing just seconds before he jumped. He was going through a bad divorce, had a young son, and a family who grieves his loss. There are so many stories like this I could tell you.

  • Cmom

    I’m glad they are finally doing this! As someone who has been unfortunate enough to witness a suicide I can say it is a terrible experience that never leaves you. I hope that the fence will reduce the number of suicides, but if not, then at least it will spare a lot of innocent people who live and work around the Aurora Bridge from the traumatic experience that it is to witness a suicide and its aftermath. It’s not only about the people who are intent on killing themselves.

  • EnduroDriver

    I agree, it doesn’t look like an able bodied person would have any problem getting over that so my concern would be a lawsuit on behalf of the Americans with Disabilities Act for not allowing equal access. If we put up these ridiculous fences can we at least do away with the useless and costly phones mounted on the bridge?

  • mike

    iirc, there is a lid that cuts back into the bridge to prevent climbovers.

    but i agree w/ most, this is ridiculous. at a minimum, if they do go foward, i hope that a matte finish is used.

    i can’t wait to hear all the people that whine about losing the view on the viadukt get bent out of shape over this one..

  • susan

    You can find out more about suicides from the bridge at http://seattlefriends.org/
    I think most people would feel differently about the money spent if they worked and lived in Fremont and had to see these suicides every few months.

    • Tiktok

      I’ve lived and/or worked in fremont for nine years, and I’ve never seen one of the suicides, and I have a view of the Aurora Bridge out my office window.

      • http://www.seattlefriends.org autumn

        Consider yourself very lucky then. I mean that with no sarcasm, I wish I had your story.

  • ryanhealy

    I live 1/2 block east of the bridge in Fremont and I’m definitely in favor of the fence. However, I’m hoping the design isn’t final — I agree with a couple of the comments above, climbing over that doesn’t seem like it would be much of a challenge.

  • ding

    look you’re never going to stop someone if they want to do it.

    i think this fence would deter people from toying with the idea. No getting there and sitting over the ledge. It will take considerable effort to do it. if someone is going to do it with this mockup, it will likely be up and over.

  • Becca

    I am in favor of the barrier – making it even marginally more difficult to get over the fence will prevent deaths. And I’m one of the people who treasures the views from the bridge!

    Here are some statistics from the website of the organization Seattle Friends (FRemont Individuals & Employees Nonprofit to Decrease Suicides http://www.seattlefriends.org

    Key stats:
    - Over 230 people have committed suicide from the Aurora Bridge.
    - It is the second deadliest “suicide bridge” in the USA, behind the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA.
    - On average, someone leaps from the bridge once every three months.
    - Since 1995 nearly 50 people have died.
    - 2006 was one of the deadliest on record, with 9 people dying. This tied the record set in 1972.
    - Over half of the victims land on the pavement and busy intersections below.

    There was a convincing article in the New York Time last July about the effectiveness of barriers. (The Urge to End It All By SCOTT ANDERSON Published: July 6, 2008) that I’d be happy to forward to anyone who would like to see it in its entirety.

  • JimB

    I’m not sure what to think. People who really want to kill themselves will find a way. But many people who attempt suicide do it as a cry for help and want intervention. In this case, I think the person sitting on the ledge of the bridge has a better chance at survival than the person taking pills or cutting their wrists. Are there statistics on how many people have been talked off the bridge?

  • Sheila

    Hopefully this link will work and help answer some questions:

    http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR99/AuroraBridgeFence/FAQ.htm

    I read some of the studies before and they seem to indicate that suicides by bridge jumping are an impulsive act. By placing a barrier on the bridge, they are unlikely to attempt suicide another way. Of course, that isn’t always the case.

    I know many people who have experienced the aftermath of a jumper and aside from the physical danger, there are the metal issues to deal with. Can you imagine driving your car to work only to be stopped because someone landed on your car or in front of your car?

  • mike

    “Can you imagine driving your car to work only to be stopped because someone landed on your car or in front of your car?”

    as someone who lives and works in fremont near the bridge, i have seen this.

    i still don't think the barrier is the correct move. the money would be better spent on mental health facilities for the state.

  • JimB

    Thanks for the link, Sheila. I wonder if they are implying that the “impulsive acts” are sometimes not linked with suicidal tendencies, but compulsive disorders.

    Mike, I agree about mental health care, but that's a longer term solution.

  • Sheila

    Mike – I agree that mental health facilities are a wonderful idea, but as the FAQ states: “This project is funded through the gas tax. The 18th amendment to the Washington State Constitution dedicates gas taxes to highway purposes.”

  • Natalie

    It's a common misperception that individuals who attempt suicide by impulsive means (such as jumping) have a history of mental illness. Most are “typical folks” who are overwhelmed by hopelessness and presented with an opportunity to end their lives. It's also a misperception that they would be likely to attempt by other means if they are thwarted by a barrier. Research shows that barriers save lives. This fence is a wonderful thing. Those who mock it without knowing anything about the public health data should read this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07….

  • David

    There should be a safe legal doctor assisted method to suicide, its pointless to force people to live lives that no one would want to live and its selfish of everyone else to expect people to suffer just so they can pretend that theyre “saving a life” and being “noble”, like torturing someone is noble.




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