There’s no telling why 21-year-old Timothy Williamson chose an overpass at the base of Capitol Hill to end his life last Saturday night. But the leap of between 28.03 and 31.11 feet from the Pine overpass — it varies across the lanes of I-5 below — is not something the human body is designed to withstand. Today, there is nothing preventing somebody from doing it again.
The Washington Department of Transportation tells CHS that it has no plans to install barriers to prevent jumping from the three main overpasses near the Hill — Pike, Pine and Denny. The agency says it does not track suicide attempts and has no statistics on how many people have jumped from the bridges connecting Capitol Hill to downtown.
CHS has reported on three jumping deaths involving the overpasses since September. This man in his 60s died on the afternoon of September 1st. This man in his 30s died in October. Williamson died just before midnight on Saturday.
While many point to this study that showed no effect on citywide suicide rates after a barrier was installed on the Bloor Street Viaduct in Toronto, other research shows that the structures can, at least, make a local difference.
The Seattle Department of Transportation also says it does not track suicide statistics and that the overpasses are state turf. “The overpasses on I-5 are owned by WSDOT, and any decision to add barriers to discourage jumping from the overpasses would lie with them,” a SDOT statement sent to CHS read.
“We were pleased that WSDOT installed barriers on the Aurora Bridge,” the statement continued. “While we wish we could prevent this type of tragedy from occurring on any of the bridges and overpasses within Seattle regardless of ownership, we do not at this time have funds allocated or plans developed to add new barriers to other structures. We are confident WSDOT feels the same about their more than 1,500 bridges in their Northwest Region.”
The $4.6 million project to install barriers on the Aurora Bridge was completed last February 15th. It ringed the structure in an eight-foot, nine-inch fence designed to put an end to the bridge’s long history of Seattle suicides.
A WSDOT spokesperson said that, if barriers are to be added to any overpasses in the city, Olympia is going to again need to be involved.
Like the Aurora Bridge barrier, barriers on the Capitol Hill overpasses would need to be driven forward by the legislature. The WSDOT rep said lawmakers finally took up the bridge issue when software company Adobe and other neighbors complained to representatives about the suicides as a psychological issue for those who had to experience the aftermath.