PROVIDENCE. R.I. — The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) voted unanimously to conduct a safety barrier feasibility study on two of the state’s bridges.
The state agency secured $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for the study, during which safety barriers will be installed on the Mount Hope and Jamestown Verrazzano bridges in an effort to prevent people from taking their own lives.
There isn’t enough funding to also install the safety barriers on the Newport Pell and Sakonnet River bridges, which is concerning for suicide prevention advocates.
“We can’t afford to wait,” Bridging the Gap for Safety and Healing’s Melissa Cotta said. “We need to move with a sense of urgency.”
Cotta said time is of the essence, which is why she’s calling upon the state to install temporary barriers on the state’s bridges in the meantime.
“I was a witness to a jump on one of these bridges and it’s forever changed my life,” Cotta said. “It was very difficult [to move forward].”
Cotta’s mission is not only to push for these safety barriers, but also to advocate for better mental health outreach statewide.
RITBA Executive Director Lori Caron Silveira tells 12 News that, while any loss of life is devastating, the state agency needs to ensure the bridges are fully functioning first.
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“I always come back to the fact that our job is to maintain these bridges in a safe condition and make certain they function the way they’re supposed to,” she said.
Caron Silveira assured that RITBA will work as quickly as possible to “see exactly what’s feasible” when it comes to installing the safety barriers.
“We don’t want this happening at all,” she added.
Caron Silveira said the study is expected to begin in January and should be completed by February 2024.