Hoover Dam Bridge Suicides Spurring NDOT Review

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Nevada Department of Transportation officials
are considering ways to curb suicides at the Hoover Dam bypass
bridge after a fourth person plunged from the bridge walkway to the
Colorado River.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the federal Bureau of Reclamation plans install a dozen call boxes on the 900-foot-high bridge, using funds from a Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act grant.

Nevada Department of Transportation officials are expected to
discuss the suicides during upcoming meetings in August and
September. Netting, a fence or a more restrictive railing are among
the possible options.

"We are constantly monitoring the situation," said Damon
Hodge, spokesman for the department. "Whatever we propose, the
Federal Highway Administration would have to approve it."

Four suicides have been reported since the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat
Tillman Memorial Bridge opened in 2010, including two people this
month who climbed the 4-foot-6-inch concrete-and-metal railing. The
span carries U.S. 93 traffic between Nevada and Arizona.

In San Francisco, 1,558 people have committed suicide at the
Golden Gate Bridge since it opened in 1937. Dr. Richard Seiden,
professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, warns
that the Hoover Dam bypass bridge has a potential to join other
places with frequent suicides, such as the Golden Gate Bridge.

"They (landmarks) develop a reputation of their own. You can be
certain it will get worse before it gets better," Seiden said.
"That's what's going to happen unless steps are taken."

The bridge, the longest single-span concrete arch bridge in the
Western Hemisphere, has become a popular tourist attraction. There
were no suicides the first year it opened.

Seiden suggests putting 8-foot concrete columns close together
to help prevent people from squeezing through the spaces, while
keeping the view of the Hoover Dam unobstructed.

San Francisco officials agreed to install a safety net below the
4-foot railing of the Golden Gate Bridge in 2008, but the cost is
estimated to be about $45 million to cover the span of 9,000 feet.

The span of the Hoover Dam bypass bridge is 1,900 feet.

At Florida's Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which carries Tampa Bay
traffic on Interstate 275, 120 people have committed suicide since
1987. State officials have tried to address the problem with
24-hour patrols, surveillance cameras and crisis hot line phones.

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