The Arizona Department of Transportation is making good on a promise to help prevent suicides off Midgley Bridge.
On Friday, Dec. 2, ADOT announced that in partnership with Sedona, the U.S. Forest Service and Coconino County, it will add protective fencing over the next few weeks to the bridge, located north of Sedona on State Route 89A.
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The city of Sedona sought ADOT’s help after four people committed suicide from the bridge in 2015 and a fifth this year. After working with a nonprofit to add signs carrying the number of a suicide-prevention hotline, ADOT worked with area partners to design fencing for the bridge.
“We are responding to the community’s concerns and acting in the interest of public safety,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said in a press release. “Fencing can complement a broader community response by acting as an additional barrier and possible deterrent.”
Earlier this year, Mayor Sandy Moriarty — as well as the Sedona Fire District and Coconino County — sent letters to the Arizona Department of Transportation requesting that measures be taken to install some type of suicide barrier on the bridge. Midgley has been the site of five suicides — three women and two men — since August 2014. Since ADOT owns the bridge, the city, county and SFD were only able to provide input on the matter.
Moriarty said she wanted to thank Halikowski and Deputy State Engineer Jesse Gutierrez of ADOT for working with Sedona to take this proactive step in dealing with the many incidents of suicide and attempted suicide related to Midgely Bridge.
“Anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide understands that the loss of even one life is too many when there is a chance at possible prevention,” she said. “The Mental Health Coalition Verde Valley, the Sedona Fire District, Coconino County and the city of Sedona joined together to urge this action on the part of ADOT, and the city is very grateful that they were willing to help.”
Work to install fencing will involve overnight lane closures and alternating traffic over the bridge, located at milepost 376. The restriction will be in place from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sundays through Fridays and began on Monday, Dec. 5, and will end Friday, Dec. 23. If necessary, work will resume on Monday, Dec. 26, and continue until complete.
Motorists traveling on State Route 89A between Sedona and Flagstaff during evening hours should allow for extra travel time, as ADOT crews install fencing at Midgley Bridge located about two miles north of the city of Sedona, ADOT reported.
The 10-foot-tall fencing, which will be chain-link style and attached to the bridge’s railings, is designed to be difficult to climb. The bridge itself is 240 feet long but the fencing will span a total of 374 feet.
It was originally thought that the fencing would curve in near the top, similar to what can be seen on overpasses in larger cities.
“We looked into that but the fact that the width of the bridge is just 24 feet, if we were to taper the bridge at the top, it would catch taller vehicles as they go by,” ADOT engineer Audra Merrick said in July. “Because of the bridge’s age, we needed to minimize both the wind loading and the weight being added.”
A Crisis Hotline is available 24/7 from Spectrum Healthcare at 634-2236, or call 911, and a resource guide is available from the Mental Health Coalition Verde Valley on their website at mentalhealthcoalitionvv.org/resources.