Port Angeles adding barriers, funding to bridge capital plans

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has directed staff to add safety barriers for the Eighth Street bridges to the city’s capital facilities plan.

Council members also voted Tuesday to direct staff to evaluate short- and long-term options for a safety fence, netting or other barrier that would help prevent suicides.

The seven-member council then agreed to “have the city open its doors to collect funding” to help pay for safety improvements at the twin spans over Valley and Tumwater creeks where three people have taken their lives in the past five months.

The unanimous votes were taken after the council heard testimony from 14 speakers who urged the city to raise the 4-foot, 6-inch railings to reduce suicides on the 100-foot-tall bridges.

Among the speakers was Richard Wishart, father of 15-year-old Ashley Ann Wishart, who died after leaping from the eastern Valley Creek bridge Nov. 13.

Seven people have jumped to their deaths from one of the two bridges since they reopened with shorter railings in 2009.

Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd, a longtime advocate of taller railings, said she is seeking state funding for the estimated $900,000 safety improvement.

Kidd made the motion to add safety barriers to the capital facilities plan as suggested by state Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, who is heading up the effort to fund the project.

Kidd also moved to direct staff to bring back “engineering-based” solutions for higher safety barriers in the short term and long term.

She urged the roughly 100 meeting attendees “speak with one voice” on the issue.

“We will get something done,” Kidd said in a nearly four-hour meeting.

Council member Sissi Bruch moved to allow the public to make donations to help pay for safety barriers.

Any money left over after the barriers are added would be earmarked for mental health, according to the approved motion.

The council is expected to discuss options for the Eighth Street bridges at its next meeting on Dec. 5.

This story will be updated.

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