Bridging the Gap for Healing and Safety, the local advocacy group asking for physical barriers to be installed on the Mount Hope, Sakonnet, Pell, and Jamestown Bridges, is calling upon state leaders to install temporary barriers while legislation and bidding & award processes for feasibility studies work their way through the General Assembly and the state’s purchasing bureaucracy.
According to Bridging the Gap’s co-founder Bryan Ganley, a 40-year volunteer for The Samaritans of Rhode Island and OSHA trained 15-year member of the Heat and Frost Insulators Union Boston, potential falls from bridges would not be tolerated for 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 throughout the world, the goal is zero injuries.” What would be the response 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 deaths. But if something were to go wrong, the project would not be allowed to continue until the cause was thoroughly investigated and mitigated through proper protections.”
“What is even more distressing when I compare every day construction to what has happened on our bridges is that the money to install temporary safety measures at those construction sites would be found immediately, end of discussion” said Ganley.
In their quest to see permanent barriers on the state’s bridges over Narragansett Bay, Ganley and co-founder of Bridging the Gap for Safety and Healing, Melissa Cotta, have found support from Rhode Island legislators Representative Joseph Solomon and Senator Louis DiPalma. Both Solomon and DiPalma are expected to reintroduce legislation this session that was previously stalled due to the pandemic. And according to Cotta, they have also found support in the more than 4,100 signers to an online petition Cotta and Ganley launched asking for barriers to be installed.
“Our next goal is 5,000,” said Cotta. She notes, “The comments written on the petition in support of barriers are heartbreaking. The comments bear witness to just a fraction of what the families, friends, neighbors, co-workers and first responders experience, not only when a death from a bridge occurs, but for a lifetime.
Both Ganley and Cotta agree, “As we have stated many times, there is much about suicide which is unpredictable. However, we actually have the tools, following federal and state safety standards, to stop accidental and deliberate bridge deaths. In the interim, while we wait for permanent barriers to be installed, the time is now to make our bridges safer by installing temporary barriers. We implore our leaders, the Governor, the House Speaker and Senate President, the board of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, and the RI Department of Transportation, to not let one more death happen and to order temporary barriers installed today. When we do this for Rhode Island, we will be a model for the world.”
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