We’re concerned about people committing suicide by jumping from the Aurora Bridge. A suicide prevention barrier must be an effective deterrent, avoid unintended negative consequences and comply with regulations and laws. WSDOT's design also took into consideration these interests and values:
We carefully researched and consider suicide prevention measures to assure that they would be effective and won't have unintended consequences. For example, suicide contagion is a concern. We talked with mental health and safety experts and carefully considered options before taking action. We will also monitor the effectiveness of the suicide prevention fence.
We must take into account traffic safety and must comply with safety regulations.
We considered the effects of a safety barrier on people who live, work and play in the Queen Anne and Fremont neighborhoods and on Lake Union and the Ship Canal.
A safety fence must provide safe access for emergency responders. This includes emergency responders who are trying to dissuade someone who is on the bridge and threatening to jump and emergency responders who are trying to rescue people who have jumped into the water. Emergency dives into the murky, debris-strewn Ship Canal waters are a significant risk.
We considered the effect of a barrier on the bridge's structural integrity, particularly during an earthquake or windstorm.
We looked at the effects of a barrier on the natural environment. This effort included environmental analysis and documentation.
The Aurora Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated city of Seattle landmark. We consulted with the city of Seattle's Landmarks Preservation Board and the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation during fence design and are seeking their approval on our plan.
Any suicide prevention measure will require funding for maintenance. In addition, this maintenance may require lane closures, which can cause traffic delays.
WSDOT inspectors must examine the Aurora Bridge every other year to watch for signs of structural damage or stress. Inspectors must closely scrutinize the underside of the bridge. Because the bridge is very high above ground and water, the crews use an under bridge inspection truck to get close enough to inspect the underside of the bridge. We designed the barrier with inspection access in mind.
We considered the short-term cost to install a barrier and the long-term costs to maintain it.