The Vermont Agency of Transportation says it wants to have a temporary fence up on the Quechee Gorge Bridge before the middle of September to try to cut down on any more suicides at the popular tourist attraction.
There have been 15 suicides at the bridge since 2003, according to a legislative report that was issued last year; there have been another four so far this year.
The complete bridge will be upgraded in 2022, which will include a more permanent fencing system, but at a recent meeting in Hartford, VTrans project manager JB McCarthy said the state was ready to get the temporary fence in place.
“There was another death there in the past week,” McCarthy said. “And the goal of this project is to get something up there so it doesn’t happen again, so the public safety officials, the town, the mental health people, the families and friends don’t have to go through this at this site in the future.”
At the Hartford meeting, McCarthy presented a range of options for the temporary fencing: the highest and most secure was a chain-link fence that arced forward, but there was some debate about putting up a shorter fence that was more aesthetically pleasing.
But Hartford resident Alan Johnson said it was important to get the safest fence up as soon as possible.
“I have great respect for this as a tourist attraction for the town, a source of revenue for businesses and so forth," Johnson said, "but we have to keep in mind what our priorities are."
The proposed chain-link fence will have eight viewing slots.
McCarthy said it would take a week or less to get the fence up once work begins in early September, and he said the chain-link fence would remain in place until the bridge was more thoroughly rehabilitated in four years.
Here are some resources if you or someone you know is considering suicide:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Veterans Crisis Line & Military Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, Press 1
- Crisis Text Line: 741-741
- Vermont Suicide Prevention Center: http://vtspc.org/
- In emergency situations, call 911.