A man driving south on the Golden Gate Bridge sideswiped a northbound car before colliding head-on with a sport utility vehicle, leaving three people injured and closing the span for more than an hour.
It was the second crossover accident in less than two months on the world-famous span, which has only 19-inch rubber tubes 25 feet apart to divide opposing traffic.
At about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, a man driving a four-door gray Volkswagen Passat in the far-left southbound lane drifted into northbound traffic, sideswiping another gray Passat and colliding with a silver Honda CRV just north of the bridge’s north tower.
It took emergency officials with power tools about 45 minutes to extricate the Honda driver, who was estimated to be about 60 years old. She was airlifted to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, according to Presidio Fire Department Chief Tony Voight.
The man driving the Passat involved in the head-on collision sustained moderate injuries and was being treated at Marin County General Hospital, Cross said. The man whose vehicle was sideswiped sustained no injures, Cross said.
Automobile traffic was completely shut down on the bridge until about 4:30 p.m., according to Mary Currie, spokeswoman for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.
Wednesday’s head-on collision brings to light a controversial issue that has hounded bridge officials for decades — the absence of a median barrier on the span.
Since 1970, there have been 36 fatalities on the Golden Gate Bridge, 16 the result of head-on collisions, Currie said. The last automobile fatality was in 2001, and the last fatality from a head-on collision came in 1988, Currie said.
“Safety is the No. 1 priority for the bridge,” Currie said. “We’re working as fast we can now that we have funding to move the median barrier project to the next level.”
On March 26, nine vehicles were involved in an accident that stemmed from a crossover collision.
Earlier this year, the bridge district received $20 million in regional funding to build the long-awaited barrier, which must be moveable to accommodate varying traffic flows for evening and morning commutes.
Currie said the bridge district will send out requests for proposals for the project in two weeks, but it should take 24 to 36 months before the barrier is installed because of the length of necessary environmental studies.
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, Currie said.
Examiner Staff Writer John Upton and wire services contributed to this report.