Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Adding a Barrier?

Study explores feasibility of adding a suicide barrier at Golden Gate Bridge

SAN FRANCISCO -- - Officials here took another step Tuesday toward approving a suicide prevention barrier for the Golden Gate Bridge, the 71-year-old span that for years has been at the center of a controversy pitting safety against aesthetics.

Bridge officials released an environmental impact report that explores the cost and feasibility of five design options that range from raising the existing pedestrian rail from 4 feet to 12 feet to erecting nets that would catch jumpers.

Mary Currie, a spokeswoman for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, called the report "a milestone" in the study process. "We have never gone a formal environmental analysis before," she said. "This is the furthest we've seen any suicide barrier discussion go."

But the agency has no money to fund any version of the barrier project, which would cost from $25 million to $50 million, Currie said.

Since the bridge opened in 1937, an estimated 2,000 jumpers have taken their lives there. The deck is approximately 260 feet above the water. After a fall of about four seconds jumpers hit the water at about 88 miles per hour, which is nearly always fatal. Most of those who survive the impact die in the frigid water.

In 2007, 35 people jumped to their deaths from the bridge, a 75% increase over the annual average of 20 such deaths, officials said.

Barrier proponents reacted to the study with both frustration and optimism.

More of the article here.

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