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Port Authority: GWB Anti-Suicide Fence At Least Three Years Away

The GWB.
The GWB. Photo Credit: Jerry DeMarco

FORT LEE, N.J. -- It will be a little over three years before a suicide fence is built on the George Washington Bridge, despite efforts by local municipalities to get one sooner, authorities told Daily Voice.

Some have said that's too long to wait: 18 people have jumped to their deaths from the span each of the past two years, they note.

Hundreds of others have either been rescued from the railing -- or in some cases the other side of it -- or been stopped before they could kill themselves.

A Port Authority police officer tackled a suicidal 17-year-old girl Wednesday morning as she ran toward the GWB railing, intending to jump, authorites said.

Last Friday, a PAPD lieutenant kept a suicidal teenager on his cellphone long enough for colleagues to stop him from jumping.

At the current rate, there would be a dozen suicides for all of 2016. As of mid-September, the number was 8.

Tenafly's Mayor and Council approved a resolution Tuesday night calling on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to install an "anti-suicide" fence along the pedestrian walkway, which "would dissuade persons from attempting suicide and would save lives."

Copies were sent to Govs. Christie and Cuomo, as well as to local state and federal lawmakers and all of Bergen County's other municipalities.

The catch, according to an authority spokesperson, is the condition of the bridge.

"It isn't feasible to do it on a temporary basis [until 2020] because of the overall construction work that's needed," the authority's Neal Buccino told Daily Voice.

"Safety fences on either side walkway will be staged along with bigger construction projects that will improve ADA access and separate bikes and pedestrians," he said.

The southbound walkway will get its fence in 2022 while construction is done on the northbound side to prepare it for bicyclists, Buccino told Daily Voice.

That side will reopen in 2024 with its own safety fence, he added.

Among the other necessary improvements are replacing the span's steel suspender ropes, Buccino said.

The fence won't be that simple a task, he noted.

"One of the challenges is making the fence porous enough so that it won't act like a sail when the wind hits it but strong enough to withstand high wind," Buccino said.

Its height hadn't yet been determined, he said.

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