Build the safety barrier
After a decade of delay, the Golden Gate Bridge board is smart to move swiftly on a Movable center barricade A Movable concrete-and-steel safety barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge is such a good idea we can't help but wonder why it wasn't installed long ago. After all, similar lifesaving barriers designed by just one firm are in use in 43 locations, including the San Diego Coronado Bridge, New York's Tappan Zee Bridge and New Zealand's Auckland Harbor Bridge.
After a decade of dithering-and more deaths-the Golden Gate Bridge Board of Directors is finally moving ahead with crash tests on a promising barrier called the "Quickchange," designed by Barrier Systems of Carson City, Nev. On Tuesday, the board approved $92,500 to crash test a prototype.
Anyone who's ever driven across the Golden Gate knows the only barrier between speeding northbound and speeding southbound traffic is thin air. The yellow lane markers wouldn't stop a determined housefly. Drivers who calculate the odds avoid the center lanes as a death trap.
Since 1970, there have been 34 bridge fatalities-most of them from head-on crashes. You'd think that grisly toll would be enough to stir even politicians and bureaucrats to action. But. as with the subject of suicide, there's a lot of denial among bridge officials. They don't like to talk about death, and discussions of center barriers bring up the subject.
But a barrier suddenly became a lot more feasible after a particularly vicious head-on collision on June 24 that killed one driver, injured four other people and tied up traffic for four hours. To their credit, bridge officials are now moving swiftly and in a single direction. A barrier by the end of next year is possible. The Quickchange system has a proven record. Where it is used, company officials say, no head-on crashes have ever occurred. The barriers can be shifted in 30 minutes, the same time it takes now for bridge workers to replant the flimsy lane markers-perhaps one of the most dangerous jobs outside of military combat.
What needs to be tested in the proposed $6 million system is a new one-foot-wide design. Quickchange barriers on other bridges are twice as wide. The narrowness of the Golden Gate Bridge supposedly necessitates the narrower design-at a cost three times higher. For two extra inches per lane, we'd be tempted to go with the fatter, cheaper design-but we're consent to leave that
decision to the engineers. The important thing is to get a workable lifesaving barrier into place on the Golden Gate Bridge as soon as possible.