Bridges of sighs

Apparently the Golden Gate Bridge is, along with being one of the most awe-inspiringly beautiful things ever constructed, a choice place for suicide jumpers. This fact has sparked a rather macabre series of posts at Andrew Sullivan’s site in which readers list other bridges favored by suicides. So let me offer my own tidbit: the Donald and Morris Goodkind Bridges that span the Raritan River in Middlesex County, New Jersey. Not only do they attract a fair number of jumpers, but their status has been certified by an appearance in the first season of The Sopranos — specifically, the episode “Nobody Knows Anything,” in which a crooked detective (John Heard) opts to kill himself before he can be prosecuted and disgraced. I’m sure the location was chosen quite deliberately: The Sopranos was usually very astute in its use of New Jersey scenery. We’ll just pass in silence over that “Pine Barrens” episode that was (a) shot in upstate New York, in (b) an area largely devoid of pine trees.

The reason the bridges serve such a grim purpose isn’t hard to see: the steel Donald Goodkind Bridge, which carries traffic south into New Brunswick, has a low railing and a relatively wide sidewalk that offers easy access. (Ironically, the Donald Goodkind Bridge’s wide footpath makes it one of the few safe places to walk along Route 1, and venturesome moviegoers use it to reach the AMC Loews megillaplex on the New Brunphuss side.) The concrete arch Morris Goodkind Bridge, which carries traffic north into Edison, is far less accommodating to pedestrians; the footpath is all but impassable, and walking the narrow shoulder would be an equally effective way to kill oneself.

There’s actually a charming backstory to the naming of the bridges. The concrete span, built for two-way traffic in 1929, was designed by Morris Goodkind, an engineer with the New Jersey Department of Transportation. The steel span, built in 1974, was designed by Goodkind’s son, Donald. The father-and-son designations were approved many years later. 

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