Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton, Little Compton) are sponsoring legislation that would require safety barriers or netting on the three bridges that connect Aquidneck and Conanicut islands to the Rhode Island mainland.
The bill (2022-H 7383) would direct the Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, to erect the barriers on the Mount Hope Bridge, the Claiborne Pell Bridge, and the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge by Jan. 1, 2023.
“Too many people have lost their lives on those bridges in the last decade,” said Representative Solomon in a statement. “Due to technological advances, there are various types of barriers and netting available to increase safety without hindering access for routine inspection and maintenance of the bridges.”
The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority have suicide prevention measures in place, including a smart surveillance system allowing authorities to act quickly, but virtually no way to deter a determined jumper, according to the press release. The Rhode Island Samaritans also have signs posted at the bridge entrances with information for those contemplating suicide.
“This is an all-too-frequent tragedy,” said Senator DiPalma in a statement. “The cost of suicide is great. Not only is there a tragic loss of life, but those left behind can spend their lives struggling with grief, anxiety and guilt. Beyond that, suicides and suicide attempts cost the nation almost $70 billion per year in lifetime medical and work-loss costs according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”