In March, the Washington State Department of Transportation installed a mock-up of the Aurora Bridge Suicide Prevention Barrier designed through a committee. A final barrier design was approved by the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board June 3.
Landmarks Board approves Aurora Bridge suicide prevention barrier
After much deliberation, changes, and recommendations between the Seattle Landmark’s Preservation Board and the Washington Department of Transportation, the design for a suicide barrier that will be installed on the Aurora Bridge was passed in a 6 to 5 vote.
Board members were concerned with how the modern barrier would fit with the historic design of the bridge, but found it to be the best design choice after all.
The Aurora Bridge, officially named the George Washington Memorial Bridge when it was built in 1931, has the second highest rate of suicides in the United States after the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Since a shoe salesman first leapt from the bridge in 1932, 230 people are known to have committed suicide on the historic monument, the Ballard News-Tribune previously reported.
In response to the growing number of suicides, a committee was formed last year consisting of a design team from the state transportation department, community and business leaders from neighborhoods around the bridge.
Through a number of meetings, the committee decided on three key elements what would be incorporated during the decision process for choosing a barrier. The committee considered what barrier method would best detract citizens from jumping, but would not hinder views from the bridge, while also not compromising the bridge’s design and historic value.
Yesterday afternoon at the landmarks board meeting downtown, the transportation department presented a barrier that would be 10-feet-high from the roadway, eight feet, nine inches from the sidewalk and would consist of four and two inch tines as a top treatment that would deter jumpers from climbing over the barrier. The fence would connect to the original bridge and be roughly eight inches to a foot from the bridge's original railing.
The state chose a vertical barrier because it was realized that if the fence were to be horizontal the barrier would become ladder-like, giving people a greater opportunity to climb over the fence, Greg Phipps of the transportation department previously told the Ballard Ballard News-Tribune.
The state added the element of painting the stainless steel barriers a darker color to create more invisibility so as not to detract from the view, based on a previous recommendation from landmarks board member Tom Veith.
However, Marie Strong, another board member, was concerned about the shininess of the stainless steel but was reassured by Paul Kinderman, a state transportation department bridge architect, that overtime the material would change due to weathering and exhaust fumes.
Living a few hundred yards east of the bridge on a house boat for the past 10 years, Russ and Jenna Daggett said they have lived a few hundred yards east of the bridge on a house boat for the past 10 years and during that time have witnessed several jumpers along with their two young daughters.
Both said if the barrier were to be installed it would not only be for the safety of jumpers but also for the safety of those below the bridge.
But John Coney of the Queen Anne Community Council said he thought it would be better to find guidance and counseling for jumpers and to take a littler more time in choosing a preventative suicide barrier that would not diminish the bridge’s historical value.
The state is now finalizing the design plans but members of the public can still appeal the landmarks board decision, said Phipps.
“We’ll hopefully be able to complete the design, do all the work, get plans put together and advertise the project to potential bidders in August," he said.