Bridging the Gap for Healing and Safety, the local advocacy group calling for the installation of physical barriers on the Mount Hope, Sakonnet, Pell and Jamestown bridges, calls on state leaders to install temporary barriers during legislation and processes Tendering and awarding for feasibility studies goes through the General Assembly and the state procurement bureaucracy.
According to Bridging the Gap co-founder Bryan Ganley, a 40-year volunteer for the Samaritans of Rhode Island and a 15-year OSHA-trained member of the Heat and Frost Insulators Union Boston, potential bridge falls would not be tolerated for the workers of the RI Bridge and Turnpike Authority or RIDOT nor for the subcontractors who would be hired to install the permanent barriers. “In the construction industry around the world, the goal is zero injuries.” What would be the reaction if someone fell? According to Ganley, “Falls would be prevented through the installation of temporary barriers and employee equipment designed to prevent falls, injuries and fatalities. But if something went wrong, the project would not be allowed to proceed until the cause was carefully investigated and mitigated with appropriate safeguards.
“What is even more distressing when I compare the daily construction to what happened on our bridges is that the money to install temporary security measures on these sites would be found immediately, end of discussion”, Ganley said.
In their quest to see permanent barriers on state bridges over Narragansett Bay, Ganley and Bridging the Gap for Safety and Healing co-founder Melissa Cotta have found support from Rhode Island lawmakers, Representative Joseph Solomon and Senator Louis DiPalma. Solomon and DiPalma are expected to reintroduce legislation this session that was previously stalled due to the pandemic. And according to Cotta, they also found support in the more than 4,100 signatories to an online petition started by Cotta and Ganley calling for barriers to be installed.
“Our next goal is 5,000,” Cotta said. She notes: “The comments written on the petition in favor of barrier gestures are heartbreaking. The comments tell only a fraction of what families, friends, neighbors, co-workers and first responders experience, not just when a death occurs on a bridge, but for a lifetime.
Ganley and Cotta agree: “As we’ve said many times, there’s a lot about suicide that’s unpredictable. However, we do have the tools, in accordance with federal and state safety standards, to stop accidental and deliberate deaths on bridges. In the meantime, while waiting for permanent barriers to be installed, now is the time to make our bridges safer by installing temporary barriers. We implore our leaders, the Governor, Speaker of the House and Speaker of the Senate, the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority Board of Trustees and the RI Department of Transportation, not to let one more death occur. and to order the installation of temporary barriers today. When we do this for Rhode Island, we will be a model for the world.
To learn more and sign the petition, visit: tinyurl.com/ribridgingthegap
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