WSDOT: Committee will examine public safety, historic preservation for Aurora Bridge project

Washington State Department of Transportation officials announced Friday design is under way on a WSDOT project to deter people from jumping off of the State Route 99 Aurora Bridge in Seattle. WSDOT has formed an advisory committee to represent community, business and local government interests as the design moves forward.

“The Aurora Bridge is a designated City of Seattle landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places,” said WSDOT Regional Administrator Lorena Eng. “The committee will help ensure our fence design reflects community values and issues, complements the bridge and surrounding landscape, and meets the permit requirements of the City of Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board and the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.”

The public is invited to attend the next committee meeting, to be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thurs., July 17, at the Phinney Neighborhood Center located at 6532 Phinney Ave. N. in Seattle. Committee members will review and discuss WSDOT’s preliminary design alternatives for the fence, which will be attached to the bridge’s outer railing. WSDOT encourages the public to come and watch the committee meeting. Those who attend the meeting will have the opportunity to express their viewpoints on comment cards.

Members of the public who cannot attend advisory committee meetings can review the latest design concepts and submit comments on the project Web site at .

While WSDOT will decide which preliminary design it submits to the Landmarks Preservation Board this November, the advisory committee will play a vital role in the development of fence designs and identification of a preferred design for board review.
The Washington State Legislature provided $1.5 million for project design last March and will consider $5.9 million in construction funding during the 2009 legislative session. If funding is approved, WSDOT expects to complete design in 2009 and begin fence construction in 2010.

According to WSDOT statistics, an average of four to five people jump from the Aurora Bridge each year. Concerns stem from people who live and work below the bridge and at recovery sites who must witness the aftermath and also the risk of personal injury due to someone jumping or falling from the bridge. Additionally, first responders put themselves at considerable risk when attempting water rescues. Many believe a fence will reduce the likelihood of people jumping or falling from the from the bridge.

The Aurora Bridge was built in 1931 and is officially named the George Washington Memorial Bridge. It links the Queen Anne and Fremont neighborhoods in Seattle. It carries Aurora Avenue (State Route 99) over the west end of Seattle’s Lake Union. The bridge is 2,945 feet long, 70 feet wide and 167 feet above Lake Union.