SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) _ The Golden Gate Bridge is a big step closer to getting a suicide barrier after bridge officials approved a $76 million funding package for a net system that would prevent people from jumping to their deaths.
The bridge district’s board of directors voted unanimously on Friday in favor of the funding package, which includes $20 million in bridge toll revenue.
Federal money will provide the bulk of the remaining funding, though the state is also pledging $7 million.
At least some of the money still requires additional approval. The bridge’s board, however, has now taken its final step in adopting the net.
Officials have been discussing a suicide barrier on the bridge for decades. More than 1,400 people have jumped to their deaths since the bridge opened in 1937.
Relatives of victims who committed suicide on the bridge packed the standing-room only board meeting and cheered the decision, some with tears in their eyes. They exclaimed, “We did it”, when the decision was announced. Some said they felt as if a huge weight had been lifted and that their family members didn’t “die for nothing”.
Mark Whitmer of Hercules said he lost his son Matthew at the bridge said he fears a rush of suicide attempts between now and when the net goes up. He wants the district to be extra vigilant.
“If I had my way, I’d quit my job and walk the bridge everyday. I wouldn’t need the news. I’d walk the bridge everyday. How hard is that?” he said.
They said the bridge will no longer be viewed as a vehicle of death for them, but a bridge of beauty.
The steel net will be installed below the deck and extended 20 feet out. The net and its construction will only be visible from Vista Point in the north and the viewing area from the south.
A bridge district spokeswoman said there will be equipment that can retrieve would-be jumpers from the net, but that they could also do it person-to-person. The existing scaffolding, used by maintenance crews will have to be replaced as part of the barrier’s installation process. New scaffolding will allow access to the suicide nets.
TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten. The Associated Press contributed to this report.