WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – The National Park Service is taking the initiative to prevent further suicides on a bridge in Williamson County, and they are asking for the public’s opinions on a design they believe will help keep people safe.
The Natchez Trace Bridge, a famed double-arch bridge that sits over Highway 96 in Williamson County, is not only known for its beautiful architecture but also for the numerous suicides that have occurred in the past years. According to the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, 32 people have killed themselves by jumping off the bridge, as of 2018.
Engineers with the National Park Service are looking toward installing a permanent barrier in hopes that the addition can act as a suicide deterrent in the future. The park service is deciding between three designs, an angled top, a gentle curve, or a straight top barrier. Natchez Parkway Superintendent Doug Neighbor said safety and aesthetics both play a crucial role in deciding on the permanent design.
“Safety and suicide deterrent is the primary thing we engineered for and when it gets into the different designs that really about aesthetics and how it’s going to look on a bridge that has won many awards, one of them was a presidential award,” said Neighbor.
Public comments began this week for designs on the park service website reminding those in the community that the goal of the barrier remains to prevent suicides and suicide attempts. With that in mind, the park service will put up a temporary barrier consisting of some fencing until the permanent one is ready to go in 2024.
“The park service started looking at suicide preventions in 2010 with the installation of some signs and then later, I think in 2019, we installed some call boxes and, you know, the suicides continued,” said Neighbor, “So this next step is to put in a deterrent system and hopefully this should stop.”
The temporary fencing should be up in the coming months.
To comment on the designs or the project click here. You can also submit your comment in writing. The comment period will remain open for a month. Supervisors told News 2 that supply chain issues have impacted the timetable for construction of the permanent barrier but 2024 remains the target.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a prevention network of 161 crisis centers that provides a 24/7, toll-free hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. If you need help, please call 1-800-273-8255.