'Suicide Bridge' to get 9-foot-high barrier - KPTV - FOX 12

'Suicide Bridge' to get 9-foot-high barrier

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The Vista Bridge in west Portland The Vista Bridge in west Portland
A rendering of the mesh screen to be installed on the Vista Bridge A rendering of the mesh screen to be installed on the Vista Bridge
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Portland's iconic Vista Bridge will soon have a 9-foot-tall mesh screen on its span to stop people from committing suicide, city officials announced Tuesday.

Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees the city's transportation bureau, ordered the immediate construction of the "suicide-prevention screen."

City officials said it will be an interim fix until a long-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," Novick said in a statement. "It is time - past time - to stop the dying."

In the past six months, three people, including a 15-year-old girl, have jumped to their deaths from the bridge. That's the highest rate in years.

Construction of the suicide-prevention screen mesh fence will begin in mid-July and take approximately two weeks at a cost of about $236,000.

To deter climbing, the barrier is designed with a tight weave and a curved overhang. It will be installed along the inside of the railing and can be removed at any time with no permanent impact on the structure. That distinction keeps with the bridge's designation as a National Historic Landmark, according to the city.

City officials said they'll work on a long-term solution that meets historic design guidelines.

Earlier this year, a couple who have offices located below the Vista Bridge told FOX 12 they witness about one suicide per year. Kenneth and Bonnie Kahn tried to rally support for the barrier, despite the bridge's historic status.

"As majestic as the bridge is, the darker side of it is it's a killing machine," Kenneth Kahn told FOX 12 in May. "People end their lives here."

Kenneth Kahn said he has had to relive the nightmare of hearing someone commit suicide many times in the eight years his office has been located below the bridge.

"It's unmistakable when you hear it," he said. "There's no need to verify what it is. You know what it is."

RELATED:

May 14, 2013 - Couple pushes for barrier on Vista Bridge to prevent suicides

Sept. 19, 2012 - New suicide prevention signs being installed on Vista Bridge

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