Suicide net for the Golden Gate Bridge

October 10, 2008 8:44:43 PM PDT
The Golden Gate Bridge District is one major step closer to putting a suicide barrier in place. The board voted in favor of a net that will go underneath the bridge. But though the vote is a big step, it is really only a first step in a still controversial project.

A net made of stainless steel wire rope would catch someone about 20 feet below the bridge.

The Bridge board voted Friday 14-1 in favor of the net alternative, rejecting four other kinds of barriers and a sixth option of doing nothing.

"It was an emotional day for all of us," Bridge board President John Moylan said

Moylan wanted a bridge barrier for all of the 21 years he's been on the board. Moylan chose the net over other barrier options because it has the least impact on bridge operations and appearance. It will make the bridge more stable in high winds and is the least expensive option to maintain.

The net will cost between $40 million and $50 million to build and $78,000 a year to maintain.

The board expects a combination of state, federal and private funding to pay for the net, but has no one really has any idea of how or when.

It will not be paid for with tolls, Moylan said.

"We can't expect the commuters to pay for everything around here," he said.

Last year there were 39 suicides from the bridge; there have been 19 so far this year.

Dr. Mel Blaustein is the medical director of psychiatry at St. Francis Medical Center and has long advocated for a bridge barrier. He said studies show the net will save lives because people will not go somewhere else after failing at the Golden Gate Bridge,

"It's an iconic, romantic and magical site that cannot be replaced with other methods of suicide," Blaustein said.

But cardiac surgeon Dr. Clark Hinderleider thinks spending the time and money on a barrier is a tragedy.

"If this time, money and energy had been spent on these suicidal patients prior to their suicide, they'd probably still be alive today," Hinderleider said.

Right now, for every one person who jumps off the bridge, two are stopped on their way, according to bridge officials.


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