Editorial: Make the Gorge Bridge safer

Posted 8/22/18

Dozens of people turned out Aug. 16 to hear the state's recommendations for preventing suicides at the Río Grande Gorge Bridge. The state Department of Transportation and Federal Highway …

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Editorial: Make the Gorge Bridge safer

Posted

Dozens of people turned out Aug. 16 to hear the state's recommendations for preventing suicides at the Río Grande Gorge Bridge.

The state Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration presented results of a study during an open house at the Sagebrush Inn and did an excellent job. Their findings were explained in a video, display boards and brochures. Staff was on hand to answer questions.

Bottom line, from the state's perspective, the best alternative for reducing the number of deaths at the bridge is to build a vertical railing several feet high.

But constructing such a railing will change the view of and from the bridge and will cost millions of dollars.

Those who have lost loved ones to suicide, including at the bridge, think a safety railing is worth it. Studies show deterrents at bridges help prevent many suicides.

Those who find the bodies in the river and have to carefully recover them for burial, think it is worth it. They are left with trauma, over and over and over again, each time it happens. "My guys are exhausted," said the Taos Fire chief. "Anything that can reduce the deaths would help."

Suicides off the bridge are not the main way people in Taos County kill themselves. Guns are by far the most prevalent way people in the grip of despair, darkness, loneliness or drugs take their own lives.

But make no mistake. The number of suicides at the bridge is increasing. More than half in the last 40 years have occurred in the last decade. Most of them have been from Taos County, so the impact of each death ripples across our small communities: first responders who often know the people who have died, family, friends, co-workers.

The cost of each suicide is not only in dollars. It is in the incalculable impact on those left behind, stretching for years.

We think a taller railing at the bridge should be constructed. The limited impact on views is worth preventing even one person dying.

We urge state lawmakers, the DOT and federal agencies, and our Congressional delegation to find the funds and make the bridge railing a priority, sooner rather than later.

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Turn out for the county fair 

On a happier note, and we certainly need one in Taos County of late, the 44th annual Taos County Fair gets into full swing today. From champion bunnies to prize-winning veggies, there is something for everyone to enjoy at the fair.

If you have some delectable jams from this year's harvest, something you've sewn, carved or built, be sure to enter your creations in the many fair categories. You might take home a prize and win some bragging rights among your friends plus see your name in the paper in results.

Come bid on cows, sheep, pigs, rabbits and hens during the Jr. Livestock Auction. The money helps these young people who work hard to prepare their animals each year for the fair.

For a full schedule of events, see our story: 'Pies, pigs, pickles and plums.'

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