Port Angeles council adds bridge barriers to plans; thousands donated to suicide-prevention project

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has added Eighth Street bridge barriers to the 2018-2023 capital facilities and transportation improvement plans, making the city eligible for state funding to help pay for the safety improvement.

The council also voted Tuesday to authorize a donation policy to accept contributions for bridge barriers and discussed engineering options for the protective screenings aimed at preventing suicides. All three votes were unanimous.

Meanwhile, Community and Economic Development Director Nathan West announced Tuesday that the city had received a $10,000 donation and a $100,000 pledge to help fund the bridge improvements.

Seven people have jumped to their deaths from the 100-foot-tall bridges over Tumwater and Valley creeks since they opened with 4-foot, 6-inch railings in 2009. Three of those deaths occurred since June.

Permanent options for the bridges include an estimated $1 million curved chain link fence, an estimated $2.1 million wire mesh protective fence or a combination of the two, city officials said.

Both the chain link fence and wire mesh fence would be about eight to nine feet tall, the council learned.

Short-term options include closing the bridge to pedestrians, temporary construction fencing or fence posts with chain link fencing or netting.

The council will discuss the short- and long-term options at its next meeting on Dec. 19.

More donations were made during the 4 1/2-hour-long meeting.

Racheal Johnson, who organized a protest after 15-year-old Ashley Wishart jumped to her death from the Valley Creek bridge Nov. 13, told the council that she had raised $354 through a bake sale and $30 in a raffle.

“I’ll match you dollar for dollar,” Mayor Patrick Downie said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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