Golden Gate barrier set to capture funding 

A proposed suicide deterrent system on the Golden Gate Bridge is set to net $5 million, a crucial first step in funding a project that has been pushed for by advocates for more than 70 years.

By conservative estimates, more than 1,300 people have leapt to their death from the iconic span since it was erected in 1937. In 2008, the Golden Gate Bridge District board of directors approved a proposal for a steel-cable netting system to lie below the bridge span, but finding money for the $50 million project has been difficult.

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the region’s lead planning body, is expected to approve a $5 million allocation for the net, the first economic contribution to the project.

“I feel very positive about the $5 million allocation for the project,” said Eve Meyer, executive director of San Francisco Suicide Prevention. “It really shows confidence in their part that this project is worth investing in.”

The design for the net is borrowed from several systems at popular suicide destinations in Europe, where the attempt rate dropped to zero after implementation.

In approving the $50 million project back in 2008, the Golden Gate Bridge District did so with the caveat that funding for the net would not come from toll revenue, so advocates of the plan have been scrambling to federal sources for help.

Paul Mueller, executive director of the Bridge Rail Foundation, a nonprofit organization, said his group has been pinning their hopes on the reauthorization of the federal government’s transportation bill, a huge document that outlines funding for everything from highways to high-speed rail operations. Mueller and his colleagues have been shopping the Golden Gate Bridge net as part of a larger, national issue to address suicide trouble spots on other bridges and highways.

“They really have to deal with this issue right now,” Mueller said. “We have high hopes that funding for this project will be included in the next federal bill, but, we’re also realistic that there are no guarantees.”

Mueller said the $5 million commitment from local sources should make it easier to leverage more money from the federal government.

Bridge district spokeswoman Mary Currie said the first $5 million will be used to complete design plans of the net that are already underway. The remaining $45 million will be used for the construction of the net.

On July 14, an MTC committee approved the $5 million grant for the net design. The full MTC board is expected to finalize the allocation Wednesday.

Suicide prevention at Golden Gate Bridge

Bridge officials have approved a plan for a net to halt people from jumping off the span, but money remains an issue.

$50 million: Total cost of suicide deterrent system
$5 million: Amount set to be approved Wednesday
$78,000: Annual maintenance costs
20 feet: Distance that the net would hang below the bridge span
8,981 feet: Total length of bridge span
More than 1,300:
Estimated suicides on Golden Gate Bridge since it was built in 1937

Source: Golden Gate Bridge District

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

 

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