Rash of New Jersey suicides blamed on poor bridge design
At least 82 people have attempted suicide on New Jersey’s Victory
Bridge, and 22 have succeeded since its redesign a decade ago.
The redesign created a 110-foot-high span that has no barrier,
light traffic, a parking space close by, and a style of railing
that forms a stepladder. All of those factors could have
contributed to the suicide of Giancarlos Taveras, 16, who is
believed to have jumped from the bridge nearly two weeks ago. His
body was found on the rocks below on September 20.
Taveras’ death prompted hundreds of Perth Amboy residents to gather for a rally on Sunday, calling for a barrier to be erected. Two days after the march, two more suicide attempts were made.
Perth Amboy officials have repeatedly asked the New Jersey Department of Transportation, which maintains the bridge, to install a barrier. Originally designed as a drawbridge, it was redesigned in 2004 with a span allowing taller ships to pass underneath. Omitted in the redesign was any kind of railing.
Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz, along with elected officials and
the police commissioner, met with the New Jersey commissioner of
transportation on Monday to discuss the bridge – not only for the
pain it is causing families, but also for the financial burden
its causing the city as a result of search and recovery
operations, according to myCentralJersey.com.
"We want to see some kind of barrier, fencing or mesh. We want them [state officials] to make this a priority. The state built the bridge they should be responsible for it," said Diaz.
Diaz would also like a state trooper on the bridge 24 hours a day, seven days week, so the state can experience some of the costs involved in recovery efforts. According to Diaz, the commissioner said he would look into the problem.
This is not the first time Diaz and residents have demanded help.
In February 2011, a resolution was sent to Governor Chris
Christie and the NJ State Assembly requesting a fence along the
Victory Bridge. Installed instead were several phones along the
bridge directly connected to suicide prevention hotlines.
Perth Amboy resident Dorothy Carty Daniel, however, has been petitioning to have a barrier or fence installed since the bridge was being built.
“I asked the council and mayor to petition the state to do something about it," Daniel said. "I told them they shouldn't build a suicide bridge. I told them they should encapsulate it, but nobody listened."