'Suicide Bridge:' Portland, Oregon Residents Push For Suicide Prevention Barrier At Local Vista Bridge

 @CareyDrew2
on June 10 2013 7:55 AM

Vista Bridge A local group of residents in Portland are pressing city officials to install suicide-prevention barriers at the Vista Bridge  Friends of the Vista Bridge/Facebook

A group of concerned citizens are pushing city officials in Portland, Ore. to install suicide-prevention barriers at the  Vista Bridge after three people in the past six months have jumped to their deaths from the arch bridge west of downtown.

Following the deaths of a newly engaged 19-year-old woman in January, a 40-year-old man in May and a 15-year-old girl just last week, Friends of the Vista Bridge are calling for a safeguard that they say could introduce a pause to make someone think twice.

Barriers on bridges isn't a new concept as some have already been installed at bridges throughout the world, including the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge in Santa Barbara, Calif., the Bloor Street Viaduct in Toronto and the El Viaducto de Segovia in Madrid.

But while city officials in Portland have been receptive to the idea, gathering money for the project is a whole separate issue.

"We certainly think of it as a high priority," City Commissioner Steve Novick told the Associated Press. "But there's a whole mess of competing priorities and not much money."

Current estimates indicate that architecturally appropriate barriers for the Vista Bridge would cost somewhere in the ballpark of $2.5 million.

Attorney Kenneth Kahn shares an office with his wife, a life coach, that sits almost directly underneath the bridge. Over the years, he has heard the horrible slam of bodies on pavement and discovered the remains of eight strangers.

The Kahns formed Friends of the Vista Bridge in an effort to get the barrier built and also to raise awareness of suicide prevention. But even in the wake of their determination to get this project completed, there are skeptics who think that people who are determined to kill themselves will find a way.

"I don't particularly feel that throwing money at an issue necessarily solves it, and altering the bridge because of a few people who want to end their life seems pointless," Les Anderson, a magician who's among several who've voiced their opposition on the group's Facebook page, told the AP. "You're not going to stop someone who wants to end their own life."

At least 17 people have killed themselves at the Vista Bridge in the past decade. There's no reliable estimate for how many people have committed suicide there since it opened in 1926.

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