Feb. 9, 2011

Committee continues exploring bridge safety

Nader Tehrani
Robert Barker/University Photography
Architect Nader Tehrani presents his initial site analysis of high gorge bridges to the Cornell and Ithaca community in September 2010.

Progress continues on a study about potentially improving the safety of high gorge bridges on and near campus.

The City of Ithaca/Cornell University Means Restriction Committee (CCUMRC) met Feb. 7 to review conceptual options for each of type of bridge and a timeline for development of the options.

"The architects who are developing these options are making excellent progress and gaining significant information from their exchanges with the CCUMRC," said University Architect Gilbert Delgado. Delgado co-chairs the committee with JoAnn Cornish, the city's director of planning and development.

At the meeting, architect Nader Tehrani gave a progress report on the concepts he and his colleagues are developing for means restriction, a term that refers to removing or restricting access to a means of attempting suicide. Tehrani also updated Cornell's Architectural Advisory Committee on the project's progress Feb. 7.

A video of the presentation and Tehrani's slideshow will be posted the week of Feb. 14 at the website of Cornell's Long-term Bridge Means Restriction Study, http://meansrestrictionstudy.fs.cornell.edu/.

Tehrani's team is exploring many possibilities for effective means restrictions, such as the use of substructures, nets, transparent materials, landscaping, lighting and the removal of footholds.

In May 2010, three suicide-prevention experts recommended using means restrictions on the high gorge bridges owned by the city and Cornell. Research indicates that restricting access to jumping sites has a substantial probability of saving lives; if suicidal individuals are deterred from jumping at a particular site, they are unlikely to attempt suicide again.

In early March, the architects will present and discuss with CCUMRC final concept options. There will be three options for each type of bridge (pedestrian, vehicular and stone arch), along with cost estimates and a discussion of the pros and cons of each. The public will be invited to look at the concept options, hear presentations, ask questions and provide feedback at open forums on and off campus. Comments can also be sent to the Long-term Bridge Means Restriction Study website. (Click on the "Comments?" link.)

The selection of a concept for each bridge will end what is known as the preschematic design phase. The schematic design phase will kick off in April, when the architects present to the CCUMRC an overview of how they plan to develop the concepts into final designs. By early May, the architects will have created designs for each bridge. By the end of May, Cornell expects to file a site plan review application for each design with the city's planning board. Filing enables a lead agency to be determined and environmental assessment to begin.

Following environmental review, the planning board will consider preliminary site plan approval. The public will have opportunities to comment at public hearings and submit written statements during the environmental review and preliminary site plan review. Then the planning board will decide whether to approve the site plans.

If it approves the site plans for the Cornell-owned bridges, Cornell can then build the designs.

If the planning board approves the site plans for the city-owned bridges, then the city's procedures for approval of changes to city property will kick in.

Cornell promotes well-being with a comprehensive approach

Along with the Long-term Bridge Means Restriction Study, Cornell has a well-established, comprehensive approach to mental health promotion and suicide prevention. It includes programs and policies that:

  • Foster a healthy educational environment;
  • Promote life skills and resilience;
  • Increase help-seeking behavior;
  • Identify people in need of care;
  • Provide mental health services;
  • Deliver coordinated crisis management; and
  • Restrict access to means of suicide.

For more information, visit Gannett Health Services.