A new "safety barrier" will span the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge to protect people who are under or on it, including potential jumpers.

Steve Snider, general manager and CEO of the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission, confirmed Wednesday a tender should go out next month to extend the steel-barred wall that now runs above Department of National Defence land. He said the barriers on both sides of the bridge would stop people underneath it from getting hit by everything from traffic columns to flying television sets.

"Over the years, we’ve had people throw large objects off," he said "Whatever they can lift, goes."

Snider added the railing will also "provide protection for those who are intent upon hurting themselves." But he was hesitant to talk about how common suicide attempts are from the bridge, explaining the World Health Organization recommends media don’t pinpoint the places where people might try to take their own lives.

Snider said the original barrier, which is about five feet high and nine feet long, was put in place a couple of years ago because the federal department "had concerns for their employees working down below." But the commission didn’t make it longer than that because at the time engineers said the bridge couldn’t handle any more weight.

A computer model has since provided a more accurate portrayal of how the bridge is doing, he said.

“The engineers have come back and told us it is doable, so we’re pleased.”

The walls are expected to cost about $500,000 total, Snider said, with construction on the pedestrian side set to start this summer and the barrier for the bicycle lane to be built in 2010-2011.

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