Suicide-Prevention Fence Planned for George Washington Bridge

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has confirmed plans to install a suicide-prevention fence on the George Washington Bridge, but not until 2024.

Agency spokesman Steve Coleman told the plans are a part of a much larger project approved last year to replace the steel ropes that suspend the bridge's upper and lower roadways.

The project will cost somewhere between $35 million and $50 million, Coleman said, and it will be difficult to meet its goal of stopping people determined to end their lives while still maintaining the structural health of the bridge.

"If built incorrectly, the fence can function as a sail, catching the strong winds that hit the structure, and causing the bridge deck to flex and jump," Coleman said. "It needs to be of a small enough gauge to prevent would-be climbers from gaining a toehold."

The project is the latest step in trying to prevent people from jumping off the bridge. Coleman said there have been seven deaths so far this year — including two this week — and 18 last year.

Coleman said the agency introduced walking patrols last year, which led to 74 successful suicide interventions, or twice the number of "saves" there had been in 2013.

Officials have said suicide prevention was not the pressing public policy issue it has become when the bridge was completed in 1931. Port Authority officials did not start recording annual suicide deaths until 2013.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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