January 26, 2017

News Alert:Transportation Committee Meets with VTrans to Discuss Quechee Gorge Bridge Suicides

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Sydney Sloan

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017:

Located in the State House, situated at a large table in the center of a large room, 10-12 transportation committee members meet to discuss and ongoing case involving the Quechee Gorge Bridge in Quechee, Vermont. The issue at end is suicide via the bridge. Two members of VTrans sit in the front of the room and present an ongoing case involving the Quechee community. Earlier this past summer members of the community reached out to the State House for help. Since 2007 there have been 11 suicides in Vermont committed on bridges. Of these 11, 9 occurred on the Quechee Bridge, which sits 165 feet above the powerful gorge. Community members are concerned not only for the mental wellbeing of their community, but also their community’s reputation.

“An estimated 100,000 tourists visit this State Park every summer through fall.” VTrans representative explains to the committee. This meeting is an update to what’s been done since the summer. Since the request, two telephone call booths have been installed on each side of the bridge. Their phones go straight to the Headrest organization, a suicide prevention hotline. Community members have expressed, however, that more must be done to deter suicide attempts. VTrans gives multiple examples of what can be put in place, each with associated costs, risks, and possible issues with the view that attracts so many people. Barriers are a possibility. A net can be placed to prevent jumping access and still allow a full view. A net can also be placed under the bridge extending 15 feet outwards, though this is costly and foreign with the only other highly used example in the US being in Ithaca, New York. Chain links and bars are also a possibility, she explains, though these obstruct more of the view.

It’s unclear what further measures must be taken to ease the fears of these community members. However, with the new phones, soon to be signs in place, and mental health professionals on standby, it seems the community, VTrans, and the State House will continue to be active in preventative measures to combat suicide on the Quechee Gorge Bridge.

 

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