Crash won't accelerate bridge-median plan

Construction of a long-awaited movable median on the Golden Gate Bridge cannot be expedited, despite a head-on crash Wednesday that left many clamoring for the divider, bridge officials said.

Because the structure is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District must adhere to strict design guidelines aimed at preserving the original aesthetics of the iconic span, district spokeswoman Mary Currie said Thursday.

Because of those rules, environmental and engineering reviews of the plan cannot be moved up from the original 18- to 24-month timetable first projected by bridge officials, who set a total completion date of 36 months for the project after receiving $20 million in regional funding in February.

“The bridge is very different than most other structures, which is why the environmental review process takes so long,” Curry said.

The total cost for the project is$25 million, with the bridge district expected to make up the approximate $4.5 million still needed, Currie said.

Wednesday’s crash, which involved nine cars but resulted in no fatalities, occurred when 34-year-old James Myers attempted to move his Toyota pickup truck into a lane occupied by a Volvo driven by 19-year-old San Francisco resident Ibrahim Shiheiber, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Mary Ziegenbein. The two northbound vehicles then lost control and swerved into oncoming traffic, resulting in a chain reaction, she said.

Shiheiber and 67-year-old Lynne Throop, of Petaluma, were taken to San Francisco General Hospital with major injuries Wednesday night, and 54-year-old Paul Reller, of San Francisco, was transferred to Marin General Hospital with major injuries. By Thursday, all three were in stable condition, according to representatives from the two hospitals.

Since 1970, there have been 36 fatalities on the Golden Gate Bridge, 16 from head-on collisions, Currie said. The bridge district’s board of directors first approved a conceptual plan for the median barrier in 1998, although mention of the project can be traced back to 1939, she said.

wreisman@examiner.com

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