The Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District board of directors will vote Friday on whether to green-light $76 million for the construction of a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge.
According to local Fox affiliate KTVU, approximately 24 people commit suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge every year. Some 52 others are prevented from jumping by Bridge Patrol. Last year, the numbers were worse than usual.
“We are intervening with a higher percentage of folks than we have historically,” Golden Gate Bridge general manager Dennis Mulligan said in the report. “Last year was a particularly problematic year in that we had 118 that we stopped and 46 jumped.”
The $76 million would go toward the construction of a stainless steel wire net that would extend 20 feet out and 20 feet below the bridge’s span. Officials sought to reassure those concerned with the bridge’s aesthetics that the net would only be visible from certain vantage points on the Marin and San Francisco sidee.
According to the Associated Press, the money for the suicide barrier will come from four separate sources; $27 million from the federal Surface Transportation Program, $22 million from the federal Local Highway Bridge program, $20 million from the bridge’s own fund, and $7 million from money earmarked in the California Mental Health Service Act.
In a Washington Post report earlier this year, Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice president of research for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said erecting the barrier would undoubtedly save lives, because it all comes down to that last moment on the bridge.
“In a suicidal crisis, it’s all about time,” she explained. “They’re going to grab whatever is available. They don’t change gears if that is thwarted, because they have rigid thinking in that moment. They’re not thinking about dying. They’re thinking about ending the pain. If they get to the bridge and there is a barrier, they’re not going to shift gears. It’s as simple as that.”
Still, others argue that a barrier would not discourage someone determined to end his or her own life.
“I think if a person’s going to choose to commit suicide, then they’re going to find a way to commit suicide and you’re not going to be able to stop them,” visitor Scott Stewart told KTVU. “And so spending that amount of money in that way is basically, in my opinion, a waste of money.”
A visitor from Murfeesboro, Tennessee said the bridge’s beauty would almost certainly take a hit.
“To have to build a suicide net, it’s really unthinkable for me, really,” Toni Jones told KTVU. “Definitely throw the looks of the bridge off because that’s not something people come to California expecting to see – a safety net for people jumping off the bridge.”
If approved, the District will begin accepting bids from construction firms later this year. The work would take approximately three years to complete.