SAN FRANCISCO - A big step was taken with the goal of saving lives at the Golden Gate Bridge.
Local officials gathered at the span for a ceremony at the bridge Thursday to mark the beginning of work to line both sides of the bridge with a suicide barrier.
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Families of suicide victims have urged the bridge to install some kind of a barrier to prevent more tragedies.
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"Where nets have been erected they've been incredibly effective. Nets have been installed on many bridges throughout the world over the last two decades and there's only been one fatality at one of those installations," Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District General Manager Denis Mulligan said.
Kevin Hines was one of the few to survive after voices in his bi-polar head shouted at him to jump. "At the millisecond my hands left that rail I had an instant reaction because the thought of suicide is different from the action," Hines said.
As survivors planted flowers in honor of lost loved ones, Bridge Sergeant Todd Roth kept walking. He knows better than most that 223 feet from the rail to the pacific is a long way down. "When you are out there and somebody jumps, it seems indefinite. It takes a while."
The stainless steel net will be located about 20 feet below the bridge's sidewalk and will span 1.7 miles of the roadway on each side of the bridge, extending 20 feet out over the water.
It will cost more than $200 million to install the stainless steel netting, and bridge officials expect the project to be finished by early 2021.
While the barrier is expected to help prevent suicides, it won't be a gentle experience. "We would expect it will break bones. They will be hurt," Priya Clemens with the Golden Gate Bridge District said.