Lawmaker considers suicide prevention fence on bridge

Lawmakers divided over bridge proposal.

PROSPECT, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Penobscot Narrows Bridge which connects Verona Island to Prospect, has become a place where some people in crisis have chosen to jump to their death. One local Lawmakers is considering a plan to fix that.

Representative Karl Ward has driven over the Penobscot Narrows Bridge several times, and he said the views never get old.

“It's a beautiful structure,” he said. “I remember thinking this is so much more beautiful and bigger and it’s lit up for much of the night.”

But it has  also been a place of desperation for those looking to end their lives.
In the last 10 years, roughlty half a dozen people have jumped to their death from the bridge.

“Every time that it happens,” said Ward, “I can only imagine what must be going through somebody's mind.”

The Department of Transportation installed emergency telephones on the bridge that automatically transfer a person in crisis to the national suicide prevention hotline.

However, constituents tell Ward that is just not effective enough, so he is considering several options to improve safety on the bridge.   He says One of those options could be installing tall fences but he says the cost is a concern, and he still has more research to do before determining if he's ready to submit a bill.

“Someone would have to be very determined to overcome that,” he said.

It is not the first time this idea has been brought up.
Three years ago, lawmakers introduced a bill to install a tall fence but it  failed in committee.
At the time, Representaitve James Gillway opposed it feeling the cost was just too high.  It's still a concern he has.

“It needs to be cost effective and effective,” said Gillway.

He said the bridge could cost up to one million dollars.
It would also have to undergo maintenance every 4 years at a cost of another 350,000 dollars.
Drones could cut the cost but not solve all the problems.

“Creating barrier here doesn't create a barrier at every location where there's a place to jump,” said Gillway.

The hope is that perhaps a fence could buy a person some time to reconsider.

Representative Ward echoes those same concerns about cost and effectiveness and said he will continue to heavily research all of the possibilities before submitting a bill.

Copyright 2017 WLBZ


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