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"Action is overdue on Golden Gate Bridge, traffic barrier"

  "If  THERE'S a median barrier that could be designed and engineered and known to be safe, it would have been on that bridge years ago. So far it hasn't been found." So said Golden Gate Bridge District manager Carney Campion a day after the June 26 bridge crash that killed San Francisco psychologist Tamar Kraut when her car was rammed by a northbound car whose driver crossed into southbound lanes. 

    Lo and behold, less than three weeks after Campion made his statement-and after a deafening public outcry against the lack of action by the district in preventing fatalities -the bridge directors found what just might be the barrier that can reduce the number of car crash deaths on the famous span. Apparently recognizing the seriousness with which drivers view preventable head-on crashes, Golden Gate Bridge District Directors voted unanimously last week to test and evaluate a barrier prototype. That action is long overdue. 

Bay Area residents love their Golden Gate Bridge, but not so much that they will refuse alterations that can save lives. For some reason, bridge officials have been less than aggressive in seeking ways to prevent the fatalities on a bridge in which cars going in opposite directions-too often at high speeds-are separated by only a thin, white line and rubber traffic dividers. The wisest bridge commuters long ago learned to stick to the bridge's right lane. Bridge officials were less than aggressive in trying to prevent head-on crashes. 

    The board voted to spend $92,000 to test and evaluate a movable barrier by Barrier Systems Inc. of Carson City, Nev. The company believes testing and evaluation of the $6.5 million steel and concrete divider could be completed in about six months.  The California Highway Patrol also should try to do a better job of cracking down on speed demons who violate the span's 45 mph limit. However, the bridge directors' radical plan to seek emergency legislation allowing the use of radar and cameras-not officers-to determine citations is not the answer at this time. 

    A better proposal is one that also was ~ approved by the board. It seeks emergency legislation to triple fines for speeding and tailgating on the bridge, where an estimated 18,000 drivers a day ignore the 45 mph speed limit. That approach has had good results on Highway 37's "blood alley" between San Rafael and Vallejo. Bridge directors deserve credit for putting a priority on finding a barrier that can stop head-on crashes and make the bridge less deadly. Let's hope that their quick response to the latest tragedy signals a willingness to listen early on and not be forced into action only because of Public outrage.

San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, July 18, 1996

"Return Home Safe"