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Port Authority To Install 9-Foot Fence To Curb George Washington Bridge Jumps

FORT LEE, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- As the number of jumping deaths approaches record levels, the George Washington Bridge is getting a fence to help prevent suicide attempts.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said there have been 13 suicides and 40 rescues on the span so far this year. There was a total of 16 deaths in 2013.

9-Foot Fence Aims To Curb George Washington Bridge Jumps

Plans call for erecting a 9-foot fence in place of the current railing to make jumping from the bridge difficult. Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico said the fence will be installed as improvements are made to the walkway's pedestrian and bicyclist access areas.

The project will cost $37 million to $47 million and will be completed in 2022, CBS 2's Kathryn Brown reported.

"Wow, that's a lot of money. I'm a New Jersey resident. It's gonna affect everybody both in New Jersey and New York," said David Rosario of Palisades Park.

Some experts said fences will only send the desperate, despondent and the determined to other bridges and other locations, but others said fences will help since the suicidal often show up without a back-up plan, WCBS 880's Paul Murnane reported.

Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice president of research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said studies prove the barriers help to prevent suicides.

"The most effective suicide prevention message for someone in a suicide crisis is a removal of access to means," Harkavy-Friedman said. "Anytime we can do that, we gain time, and time helps somebody to get through that crisis."

"There are alternative ways to deal with pain that will be life-affirming and we want to prevent loss," she added.

The Port Authority has already taken several steps to minimize jumping attempts.

"The Port Authority has stepped up police patrols, added surveillance cameras and installed hotline phones at the George Washington Bridge in recent years to help address the issue of bridge suicides, preventing more than 75 deaths since the beginning of last year," Marsico said in a statement.

Agencies in charge of large infrastructures are often caught up in controversy as pricey measures bring criticism, Murnane reported. After years of acrimony, California is moving ahead with a plan to install nets under the Golden Gate Bridge. CBS 2's Brown asked the Port Authority if it would consider the same type of subtle option for the GWB, but a spokesperson declined to comment.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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