News blog for Seattle's Fremont neighborhood

 

The Aurora Bridge Rivet Buster: “Can’t Get Any Sleep Loud”

August 1st, 2010 by Athima Chansanchai

Even Nyquil won’t help you get your Zzzz’s if you live near the Aurora Bridge and you’ve heard it. By “it,” we mean that “loud as a monster woodpecker banging on a metal tree” sound that might have interrupted a few good nights’ rest.

Aurora Bridge illo

It’s the latest development in the Aurora Bridge Fence Project (the anti-suicide barrier) from WSDOT. We’ll let them tell it:

A couple of weeks ago our contractor began using a tool called the Rivet Buster to remove rivets and bolts on the historic bridge. In many ways the Rivet Buster was a great tool. It was fast, efficient, safe and environmentally sound. But it was really loud. Can’t get any sleep loud.  So loud that some of your neighbors got up in the middle of the night to write us or call our 24-hour noise hotline (206-440-4099). And we listened.

As of this posting the Rivet Buster is on hiatus while we look into quieter ways to remove the rivets and bolts that meet our safety and environmental standards, and keep us on schedule. If those don’t pan out, the Rivet Buster will be on a 10 p.m. curfew.

Counter-intuitively, WSDOT says the work can’t be done during the day.

It comes down to safety and traffic. Workers need to close two lanes of the bridge to create a safe work zone. When two out of three lanes are closed at night, traffic can scoot by without many slowdowns. But if we closed two out of three lanes during the day, that could cause some lengthy backups on Aurora Avenue and send the spillover traffic over to Fremont and Dexter avenues.

It’s a delicate balancing act where one person’s cost is another person’s benefit. The bus rider that gets on the 358 at N. 46 St. wants to get to work on time. The person living under the bridge wants a good night’s sleep. The taxpayer wants the project to stay on budget. And the construction worker wants to come home safe. And yes, we really do think about how our decisions affect each of them.

They expect to have the work done by the end of this year or early 2011.

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Police and fire activity under Aurora Bridge

June 17th, 2010 by Geeky Swedes

Police and fire have been dispatched to N 34th St and Troll Ave N after reports that someone jumped from the bridge, a witness tells us. According to police, they have found the victim and are waiting for the King County Medical Examiner to arrive.

State Department of Transportation crews have been working since last month to install an eight-foot ‘suicide fence’ to prevent people from jumping. As of now, there isn’t any noticeable changes to the bridge as the DOT attaches the anchor bolts before the fence goes up. The project was slated to start in April but was delayed by construction equipment problems.

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Aurora bridge anti-suicide fence work resumes tonight

May 24th, 2010 by Athima Chansanchai

KOMO news reports that as of tonight, May 24:

State transportation crews will resume work on the suicide prevention fence. It measures more than 8 feet tall, and will cost some $4 million.

As we’ve reported in the past, the project, which was supposed to start April 19, has been delayed by construction equipment problems.

The KOMO article noted that, “More than 230 people have jumped to their deaths on the Aurora Bridge since it was first built – making it the second-highest suicide rate for any bridge in the country, according to some figures.”

For those who commute or use Aurora/99 regularly, expect some delays. More specifically from WSDOT: Crews will close two northbound lanes and the northbound sidewalk across the bridge from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday and Thursday nights (May 24 and May 27).

If the noise gets too much for you, WSDOT is offering free earplugs, which are available between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays at the Fremont Neighborhood Service Center located at 908 N. 34th Street. Or, call (206.440.4099) or e-mail phippsg@wsdot.wa.gov with the subject “SR 99 Aurora Bridge Fence earplug request” and WSDOT will send free earplugs to your mailbox. Please include your name, address and the number of earplug sets you need.

Track the project here.

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Suicide fence work delayed until mid-May

May 3rd, 2010 by Doug Alder

Construction delays on the new suicide prevention fence across the Aurora Bridge continue to grow. It now appears that work won’t begin until mid-May. The project, which was supposed to start April 19, has been delayed by construction equipment problems. You can track the project here.

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Update on Aurora Bridge suicide fence

April 26th, 2010 by Doug Alder

We’ve gotten word that construction of the suicide prevention fence across the Aurora Bridge won’t happen tonight or tomorrow night. An equipment problem has caused a delay in the project. WSDOT tells us there’s a chance work could start later this week.

WSDOT conducted a test last week to gauge the noise level of the drilling equipment (pictured above). Greg Phipps from WSDOT tells us those tests provided some good news – things may not be quite as noisy as first thought.

My first impression was that the drills (there is one for concrete and one for steel) were much smaller than I expected. My second impression is that the drilling was much quieter than I expected. The drilling will be noisy, but not extremely noisy as the stories on this blog have suggested. At about 60-75 feet away the drilling was not audible. The true test, of course, will be at night when there is less traffic noise, and when the work is over water where the sound carries more. The grain of salt is that this was my impression and not a scientific judgment, and I expect there will be some skepticism as this is coming from a WSDOT communications guy, so I encourage you to see and hear for yourself when construction starts.

Of course, nearby residents in Fremont, Wallingford, and Queen Anne will be the ultimate judges. The 24-hour noise hotline is 206-390-5697. Track the project here.

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Aurora Bridge Suicide Fence Work Delayed

April 21st, 2010 by Thea Chard

Fremont residents who live near the Aurora Bridge will have a few nights of relief from the month of expected nighttime noise surrounding the construction of a nine-foot safety fence over the bridge. WSDOT announced today that construction on the fence, which was scheduled to begin on Monday night, April 19, has been postponed due to an equipment problem. A new estimated start date for the work has not yet been announced.

From WSDOT:

When construction on the safety fence does begin, crews will work Sunday through Thursday nights and will work on one side of the bridge at a time. Construction will close two lanes and the adjacent sidewalk across the bridge from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly. WSDOT expects to finish installing the fence by the end of the year.

When construction does start up again, WSDOT says it will be extremely noisy. If you still haven’t received your free industrial strength earplugs, call 206-267-6019. Follow the fence project progress here. 

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Construction on Aurora Bridge fence begins today

April 19th, 2010 by Heidi

Just a reminder that starting tonight construction begins on the nine-foot-tall safety fence along the outer railing of the Aurora Bridge.  Two lanes of traffic will be closed Sunday through Thursday nights from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.  The sidewalk on the side of the bridge where work is taking place will also be closed during that time.  The barrier is designed to help deter people from jumping or falling from the bridge.   

AuroraFenceElevationView_510px

Night work is expected to last through May and neighbors have been warned that it will get noisy.  The Department of Transportation is offering free industrial-strength earplugs to residents in the area who request it.  To receive earplugs, call 206-267-6019 or email phippsg@wsdot.wa.gov with your name, address and number of earplugs needed.  You can also keep track of construction updates through the WSDOT’s project page

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Get Your Earplugs! Fence Work Begins Soon on Aurora Bridge

April 8th, 2010 by Doug Alder

Residents who live near the Aurora Bridge may be in for some sleepless nights as work gets underway to build a fence across the landmark structure.  The work starts Monday, April 19 and will last for one month. 

Two lanes of traffic across the bridge will be closed Sunday through Thursday during construction from 9pm to 5am.   WSDOT tells us the work will be incredibly noisy.  In fact, they’re even offering free industrial strength earplugs for residents who call 206-267-6019. 

The Aurora Bridge has been the scene of countless suicides, and officials hope this new fence will discourage would-be jumpers.  To track this project, you can log on to WSDOT’s special page.

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Aurora Bridge repairs scheduled for Wednesday

March 9th, 2010 by Heidi

The southbound right hand lane of the Aurora Bridge will be closed on Wednesday, March 10, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  The closure is to allow Seattle Department of Transportation bridge crews to complete repairs on the underside of the bridge. 

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Police diver under Aurora Bridge just training

February 10th, 2010 by Heidi

We received some emails about a police diver spotted in the water under the Aurora Bridge this morning.   

PoliceDiver

SPD Harbor Patrol says they were just doing some training so I thought I’d pass it along in case anyone was curious.  (Thanks to Dale for the picture!)   

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Take Back The Bridge fundraiser for Crisis Clinic

October 22nd, 2009 by Heidi

An event starting at the Aurora Bridge tomorrow is hoping to bring awareness to suicide prevention and to raise money for the Crisis Clinic of King County.  Take Back The Bridge is a project started by Seattle Firefighter, and Vine Christian Ministries Pastor, Heath Rainwater after he responded to the bottom of the bridge for a suicide attempt last spring.  Sadly, the result was tragic.  ”As a firefighter, I’ve seen many, many, many suicides.  What made this different is I saw this man fall in front of me.”  Helpless to prevent that tragedy, he hopes Take Back The Bridge will inspire people to ”build a better sense of community and bring more personal involvement into people’s lives.”

The 2-day event follows reports of at least three jumping incidents within a single week recently. According to statistics from Seattle FRIENDS (FRemont Individuals & Employees Nonprofit to Decrease Suicides), a person attempts suicide from the Aurora Bridge an average of once every three months, and the bridge is the nation’s second deadliest bridge for suicides. 

Starting in the next few weeks, preliminary construction will begin on a bridge barrier that will hopefully help deter people from jumping.  However, actual installation of the fence likely won’t begin until next spring.  In 2006, six emergency phone lines were installed along the bridge that enable people to call 9-1-1 or the Crisis Clinic’s 24-hour crisis line.  In an article written by the Crisis Clinic regarding the phones and bridge, they note ”that effort has been insufficient in reducing the number of suicides.”  They also add:

Suicide is a serious public health issue. In 2007, King County had 223 suicides; 11% of all deaths investigated by the Medical Examiner’s Office. The phones on the bridge are a lifeline for SOME, although the phones alone have not significantly changed the rates of suicide attempts from the bridge.  And, while a physical barrier on the bridge may be effective, we also need to continue to invest in health care and mental health for everyone so that there are no barriers to getting help for anyone who needs it.

For anyone who wants to get help for themselves or someone they know, the number for the 24-hour crisis line is 206-461-3222 or 866-4CRISIS.  You can also visit www.crisisclinic.org for more information.

This is the schedule for Take Back The Bridge:

  • Friday, October 23:  A 24-hour prayer vigil begins on the bridge at 5:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 24:  Pancake breakfast at Vine Christian Ministries (4000 Whitman Ave N) from 8:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m.  Give what you can.  All proceeds will go to the Crisis Clinic.
  • Saturday, October 24:  Group walk over the Aurora Bridge at 10:30 a.m.
  • Saturday, October 24:  Neighborhood BBQ at Vine Christian Ministries at 3p.m.  Give what you can.  Proceeds benefit the Crisis Clinic.

If you want more information on any of the events, or to volunteer or donate money, visit Take Back The Bridge’s website

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Rescue crews respond to suicide attempt

October 14th, 2009 by Geeky Swedes

A man jumped off the Aurora Bridge and was pulled from the water about 7:30 this morning, and early reports are he may survive. Medics began treatment near the Adobe buildings, and they took him to Harborview Medical Center. This is the third reported suicide attempt from the Aurora Bridge in just over a week. Yesterday, a Fremont Universe reader told us a man jumped to his death, and we reported last week about another suicide from the bridge.

Suicides are a big issue for Fremont — especially for the hundreds of people who work in the Adobe complex under the bridge. The state is preparing to build a suicide barrier on the Aurora Bridge beginning early next year. (Photo by WSDOT of a mock up panel installed as a test on March 29th.)

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Another suicide attempt from Aurora Bridge

October 6th, 2009 by Geeky Swedes

Medics responded to a person who jumped from the Aurora Bridge around 2 p.m. today.  There’s no word on whether the person survived.  Construction on the barrier on Aurora Bridge, designed to prevent suicides, is scheduled to begin in January or February.

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More Aurora Bridge lane closures on Monday

September 25th, 2009 by Heidi

Seattle Department of Transportation crews will be making more repairs to expansion joints on the Aurora Bridge on Monday.  From 10am-2:30pm, the left southbound lane is expected to be closed for most of the bridge length.  The left northbound lane will also be closed prior to the bridge deck.  Warning signs will be in place to alert motorists of the closures.

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Construction begins soon on bridge barrier

August 26th, 2009 by Kirby Lindsay

Editor’s note: This is the first column written by lifetime Fremont resident Kirby Lindsay, who has written for the North Seattle Herald-Outlook and the Seattle Press. We’re happy to welcome her as a regular contributor.

On September 2nd, bids for construction of a safety barrier on the George Washington Memorial Bridge are scheduled to be opened, according to Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) spokesperson Greg Phipps. Phipps reported a contractor shall be announced in mid-September. Currently construction of the barrier on the bridge, more commonly known as Aurora, is scheduled to begin in January or February but Phipps admitted, “there is a chance it could be earlier.”

After two years of public meetings and consideration among representatives of the City of Seattle and the State of Washington, construction plan cleared final hurdles on June 3rd when WSDOT representatives presented their final plan to the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board. Beth Chave, coordinator for the board, reported issuance of a certificate of approval for changes to the bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Washington Heritage Register and a designated City landmark, on June 16, 2009.


(Photo by WSDOT of a mock up panel installed as a test on March 29th.)

A Difficult Decision

“The vote was close, but the board doesn’t always vote unanimously,” Chave explained, “It was a difficult decision for the board.” The decision came amidst much controversy. Public comment before the vote included three representatives from Queen Anne Community Council and Eric Pihl, a member of the Fremont Neighborhood Council, who spoke against this barrier plan. A couple residents who live within sight of the bridge and spoke in favor it.

According to Chave, her office sent copies of the certificate of approval “to an extensive list of people,” although this is not standard procedure. Citizens who had written to the Landmarks Board requesting information about this project were proactively sent copies. “On the second page it explains how to appeal,” Chave said. An appeal of the decision had to be filed with the Hearing Examiner within 14 days of issuance and, according to Chave, “no appeal was filed.”

Construction Begins Soon

This leaves WSDOT free to move forward on a barrier, intended to deter people from attempting suicide by jumping from the bridge. It is also expected to provide safety, and less trauma, to those who live, work and move about beneath the towering structure. “We are proceeding with construction and we wouldn’t do that if there were an appeal,” Phipps asserted.

As to when construction will begin, it depends upon the contractor. “Contractors are looking at the plans,” Phipps explained, “we don’t know how many will bid.” WSDOT has specified night closures for work on the bridge deck, with traffic limited to one lane in a single direction at such times. Phipps admitted nighttime construction could create noise problems for those who live close, but will allow for normal traffic flow during high volume times.

The WSDOT web site says installation is scheduled for “early 2010,” but Phipps explained, “We will know more when we have a contractor on board.” The contractor, in conjunction with other local agencies, will ultimately decide the schedule for the work. Although, as Phipps asserted, “There will be information sent out” as WSDOT sets a construction calendar.


(Photo provided by Ryan Thurston of anxious witnesses to someone poised on the bridge, contemplating suicide in November, 2008.)

A Personal Note:

Efforts to build a barrier of some kind began in earnest in April of 2007 due in large part to Ryan Thurston, founder of Seattle F.R.I.E.N.D.S. (FRemont Individuals & Employees Nonprofit to Decrease Suicides) (www.seattlefriends.org.) Later this year, despite his triumph in his first foray into community activism, Thurston has chosen to leave Fremont to realize a personal goal, that of graduate school.

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Repairs to close lanes on Aurora Bridge

August 20th, 2009 by Geeky Swedes

The Aurora Bridge will be down to one lane in each direction on Sunday night as SDOT crews makes repairs on expansion joints. Then next week, two lanes will be open in each direction from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (the inside lanes will be closed) as maintenance crews work.

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