A contractor will begin work next week to install a nine-foot "suicide prevention screen" on Portland's historic Vista Bridge, also known at the city's "Suicide Bridge."

One of the big questions asked by the people who called Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick's office was "What's taken so long?"

"I think for much of our history, I think people have turned a blind eye to suicide. People don't want to think about it," said Novick. "And also there was concern about putting a barrier up on this bridge. It's a beautiful bridge, it's an historic bridge."

And, Novick said, many people have made the assumption that if a person wants to commit suicide, removing the bridge as an option would not make a difference. After reading a February  story by The Oregonian's David Stabler that suggested otherwise, Novick was convinced the decision to install the barrier was a good one.

"He went out and talked to a bunch of experts who said, 'You know, that's not true.' There have been people over the years who have been stopped from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge and never attempted suicide again," said Novick. "I think that research and that article work some of us up to the idea that this is something we can do something about."

The work is expected to be complete in about three weeks time and will not require a bridge closure.

*Images courtesy of the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation.

The City will work with the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office to design a permanent and more visually appealing solution, possibly appealing for federal funding to offset the cost.