The Quechee Gorge Bridge, the site of a more than a dozen suicides since 2007, is expected to undergo a redesign in the coming years in an effort to prevent future tragedies.
Residents of Hartford met with officials from the Vermont Agency of Transportation on Monday to discuss plans for permanent fencing at the site.
“The main issue was to get something that’s higher than we have out there,” project manager James McCarthy said. “We put up the temporary fencing last fall, but it’s just a chain link we threw up quickly.”
Residents said the curved structure of the temporary fence should be kept in the permanent design, but other options include angled and straight fences.
“There was some consensus on what they wanted to see, so that’s a big help to us and we want to involve the public,” McCarthy said. “They live there, they work there and that site is certainly an asset to the state of Vermont with what it does for us.”
According to VTrans, roughly 100,000 tourists visit the site each year. The temporary fencing may have already prevented at least one suicide — an off-duty police officer was able to intervene when he saw a man attempting to climb it in December.
Officials hope a permanent fence will continue to help save lives.
“A barrier such as this, even the barrier that’s out there dissuades a lot of people, we’re going to do the best we can to prevent people from using the bridge for suicide in the future,” McCarthy said.
VTrans is hoping to get more feedback on possible safety measures. They’re currently scheduled to start construction in April 2021 and finish it the following spring.