By David Mariuz

The Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Godfrey in San Francisco's Presidio. (Dan Brekke/KQED)
The Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Godfrey in San Francisco’s Presidio. (Dan Brekke/KQED)

A plan to build suicide prevention nets on the Golden Gate Bridge could get the green light this week.

The bridge’s board of directors will meet Friday to vote on whether to fund the $76 million “physical suicide deterrent system.” Federal money is anticipated to cover most of the costs, including $22 million via Caltrans and $27 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. The project would also get $7 million from the state Mental Health System Oversight and Advisory Commission.

But the district must put up $20 million from its reserves to secure the outside money, and the board has insisted it will not use toll revenue to fund the nets.

A rendering of the proposed suicide barrier. (Courtesy Golden Gate Bridge District)
A rendering of the proposed suicide barrier. (Courtesy Golden Gate Bridge District)

“I anticipate there will be much discussion, much public comment, and then there will be a vote to consider the funding plan that’s been put forward,” Golden Gate Bridge General Manager Denis Mulligan said Monday.

Family members of suicide victims and mental health advocates have lobbied for decades to have a physical barrier to would-be jumpers built on the bridge. More than 1,600 people are known to have leaped to their deaths from the span since it opened in 1937. That includes 46 in 2013, one of the highest one-year tolls.

Federal funding for the project has become available because of enactment of a 2012 law that makes safety barriers and nets on bridges eligible for federal money.

The net system is planned to extend horizontally 20 feet below the sidewalk and 20 feet out.

KQED’s Forum discusses the proposed suicide barrier and its funding:

  • sowianna

    This is another big waste of money. A check of major bridges around the world shows that they don’t get hysterical and throw money needed elsewhere. How about using the money getting help for some of the mentally ill? Improving existing facilities? Getting mentally ill off the streets of San Francisco. Shame on the board of directors. My son was mentally ill and committed suicide in a motel – how do we prevent people from committing suicide in motels?

    • Jamie

      Yea seriously, and $76 million? Are you kidding me???

      Let’s put that toward funding mental health facilities and suicide help. Once a person decides to do it a net isn’t going to help.

      • Margaret Go

        A net does help. They save lives. Please do a search of “means deterrence for suicide.”

  • Dan

    I understand it’s only a limited artistic rendering of the net, but seems to me that one could jump into the net, crawl to the edge of the net and jump all the way.

  • Eric R

    For 76 million dollars, you could hire mental health professionals to walk the bridge full time asking people if they are doing okay and counsel them. Would probably prevent suicides and actually help the people thinking of jumping, rather then just forcing them to find another way to do it.

  • dead_dragon

    I guess the net will save *some* lives, but will not keep the GGB entirely suicide-free.

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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