ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge in picturesque northern New Mexico is the state’s most famous span, has appeared in movies and attracted tourists from around the world.
But the steel deck arch bridge sitting 650 feet above the Rio Grande has also been the site of more than 125 suicides in 20 years.
Now Reps. Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales and Debbie Rodella, two northern New Mexico Democrats, want the state to divert more than $150,000 to reassign three state police officers to monitor the isolated bridge.
Other lawmakers have suggested that the bridge needed suicide barriers but that idea hit roadblocks due to funding and concerns the barriers would exceed the bridge’s weight limit.
The bridge is the second highest bridge on the U.S. Highway System, just outside of Taos, New Mexico and 43 miles south of Colorado.
Taos County officials estimated that six people a year commit suicide by falling off the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.
In 2016, the New Mexico Department of Transportation installed 10 phones at the bridge to be answered by crisis counselors with the 24-hours-a-day New Mexico Crisis Access Hotline.
The moves in New Mexico follows step taken in other states to halt suicides at their famous bridges.
In California, officials said Golden Gate Bridge suicides have decreased after the addition of five officers tasked with spotting suicidal people. More than 1,400 people have jumped to their deaths that bridge opened in 1937.
A bridge across the Hudson River in New York also has had phones connected to a suicide hotline for two decades.
The New Mexico bridge was built in 1965 and was then was called the “bridge to nowhere” since funding for a road on the other side hadn’t been allocated at the time.
Since then, it has appeared in movies including “Natural Born Killers” and “Terminator Salvation.”