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MTC Approves $27 Million for Suicide Barriers on Golden Gate Bridge

The Commission today approved $27 million for the construction of suicide deterrents on the Golden Gate Bridge. This critical safety investment will allow for the installation of a net extending 20 feet below and 20 feet from either side of the span, which has been the site of 1,600 documented suicides.

At a previous meeting, a half dozen family members of the bridge’s suicide victims shared teary anecdotes and emphatically called on the commissioners to approve the funding. Many said they believed their loved ones would not have taken their lives had there been a barrier in place.

“We need to show people that are at risk that we care about them,” said Erika Brooks, whose teenage daughter jumped to her death.

“I’m thoroughly convinced that he would still be here with me now had there been a suicide barrier on the bridge,” said Kay James, mother to a 28-year-old man who jumped off the bridge in 2011. “He made an impetuous and unreasonable decision to end his life within a short window of time when he was experiencing a lot of stress in his life. Unfortunately the bridge was an easy access for him.”

Based on a recent study, the deterrent system is expected to significantly reduce the number of suicides on the bridge, which totaled 46 in 2013 alone. Hundreds of individuals who were stopped from jumping off the bridge were surveyed. The study found that 94 percent of people who were prevented from jumping were still alive or had died by causes other than suicide 25 years later.

MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger thanked the families who had advocated for the barrier over several years.

“I am so sorry that we really can’t bring your loved ones back, but I hope this net will help ease your pain,” Heminger said. “I do know it will save a lot of lives.”

MTC’s contribution to the $76 million project comes from cost savings on other projects and from augmented state funding from the Freeway Performance Initiative program. Federal funds and bridge tolls make up the rest of the cost.

MTC previously contributed $6.9 million to the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District for the suicide barrier design and environmental review processes. In 2008, the District selected steel-cable netting.

Construction of the barrier netting on the bridge is expected to take at least three years. The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District expects to advertise for construction bids in March 2015. The district aims to award the construction contract in June 2015, and issue a notice-to-proceed by August 2015, with construction completed by the end of 2018.
 Natalie Orenstein

 

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