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  • 19 Apr 2014

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Novick orders Vista Bridge suicide fix

Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick has ordered a temporary fix to prevent suicides from the Vista Bridge.

Novick announced Tuesday morning that he is ordering the immediate construction of a 9-foot-tall mesh screen on both sides of the bridge as an interim remedy that can be in place until a longer term solution and funding can be found.

“Unfortunately, this beautiful and elegant bridge has been known as Suicide Bridge since its construction in the 1920s. It is time – past time – to stop the dying,” said Novick, who is charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

According to Novick, construction of the screen mesh fence will begin in mid-July and take approximately two weeks at a cost of about $236,000.

To deter climbing, the fencing is designed with a tight weave and a curved overhang. It will be installed along the inside of the bridge railing and can be removed at any time with no permanent impact on the structure, in keeping with the bridge’s designation as a National Historic Landmark.The

Under the City Code, a commissioner can declare an emergency when the public’s safety is endangered, a move that allows immediate action.

Novick noted that in the first six months of this year, three people, including a 15-year-old girl, have jumped to their deaths from the bridge, matching the highest rate from any recent year, and that this record has created a substantial threat to the welfare and safety of the public above and below the bridge.

Tapani Inc, a company with expertise in bridgework and historic structures, including its recent work on the Vista House in the Columbia River Gorge, has been tapped to install the fence.

The bridge will remain open during the installation, with crews narrowing the extra-wide lanes to create a construction zone and allow normal traffic flow in both directions. One sidewalk will remain open at all times.

For the long term, Novick said the city will continue to work with the State Historic Preservation Office for a solution that meets historic design guidelines. It will also seek federal or other funding for the estimated $2.5 million to $3 million cost of a durable structure that would be consistent with the historic character of the bridge, a process that is expected to take two years or longer.