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CA Considers Suicide Barrier for San Diego Bridge

Monday, April 2, 2018

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As construction of a suicide-prevention barrier on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge gets underway, the California Department of Transportation is considering a similar measure on another bridge with a historically high rate of jumpers.

The San Diego-Coronado Bridge, in San Diego, is second only to the Golden Gate in number of jumpers; more than 400 people have reportedly committed suicide by jumping from the span in its nearly 50-year history. The prestressed-concrete-and-steel bridge spans San Diego Bay and has a clearance of 200 feet over the water.

Alternatives Explored

Caltrans issued a draft feasibility study report on the topic of a suicide barrier for the bridge last week, examining a number of alternatives after studying existing barriers elsewhere in the state and across the globe. While non-physical deterrents, such as patrols and signage, are being considered to complement a physical barrier, the agency is pursuing a barrier in light of a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline study from 2008 that concluded physical barriers are the most effective deterrent to bridge suicides.

Coronado bridge rendering
Renderings courtesy of Caltrans

One alternative is a net-style barrier like the one being built on the Golden Gate Bridge. 

Alternatives include a wire-mesh fence, wire-mesh curved fence, transparent panel barrier or a net, like the one being installed on the Golden Gate. Fence barriers are more commonly used, but present a higher visual impact than the net barrier. A net would increase the possibility of injury to an attempted jumper and could require more maintenance than a fence would.

A net similar to the one on the Golden Gate would likely cost $70-110 million to install on the Coronado, according to the study. A transparent barrier—made of glass or plexiglass—would cost $74-137 million, while wire mesh fencing, whether straight or curved, would cost anywhere between $30 million and $105 million, according to Caltrans.

Bridge Access Issues

Fencing or barriers, the agency notes, would eliminate upper deck access for maintenance and painting operations as well as inspections with a snooper truck. Transparent barriers could be constructed so that they could be removed during maintenance, however.

Thistle barrier

In addition to fencing or a net, one alternative is a "thistle barrier."

A net would create problems for inspections with a snooper, but would be less of a barrier for other maintenance operations.

Other alternatives include a “thistle barrier”—a set of spikes extending up from existing rails on the bridge—and a number of fencing or barrier alternatives that could be moved or removed for maintenance. These alternatives would require more study in order to estimate their cost and timeline.

Funding for any suicide barrier for the bridge has yet to be determined.

Golden Gate Funding

The Golden Gate project is being bankrolled by funds from a number of sources: the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, Caltrans, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District, state mental-health funds and $400,000 in private investment. Most of the state and MTC funding comes from federal programs.

The budget for that project when originally proposed was about $50 million, then grew to $76 million before bidding. The low bid, though, came in at $142 million after material requirements changed.

The Golden Gate Bridge is just under 9,000 feet long; the Coronado is more than 11,000 feet long.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management

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