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Concern Citizens Comments.
Ideas for fixing bridge safety! 

Citizens push bridge barrier enforcement. What do citizens think about safety on the Golden Gate Bridge?  
What's your opinion?

Here's what, some readers think 
(an article similar to this, appeared in the Marin Independent Journal on Friday, September 27,1996)

Eric J. Schmidt, Tiburon: On August 30, 1985- by adopting Resolution No. 85-293, the Golden Gate Bridge Board of Directors reversed the policy of; that body concerning a safety barrier on the bridge. From the prior policy of encouraging proposals for a safety barrier, and even paying large cash bonuses to inventors whose proposals were deemed to have merit-the policy was change to one which declared that no satisfactory barrier could possibly be invented-and no consideration whatever would be given to any barrier proposal presented. 

    For the next ten years, Bridge users paid the price of this policy in deaths, injuries and property losses. In 1996,  inspired in large part by Robert M. Guernsey of San Anselmo and others of like mind, thousands of bridge-user signed an initiative to compel Bridge officials to consider a cross-over barrier. The initiative was signed by a sufficient number of voters, but it was disqualified on a technicality.  However, the Bridge's ten year policy of summarily rejecting all consideration of a barrier was overturned by public pressure. The Bridge authorities,. In June of this year, approved the expenditure of $ 42,500 to test a proposed barrier, and tentatively approved an additional $ 50,000 for subsequent work toward establishing that barrier. 

    "The present proposal is for an articulated barrier to be built of several thousand concrete blocks, which are to be moved several times a day by a huge transfer machine. The project is estimated to cost in excess of $7 million, (leaving out the cost of a back-up machine to prevent massive traffic jams when the first machine goes down, and leaving out the cost of operators and other personnel on a 24-hour non-stop basis who will receive large salaries annually. Eight or nine million dollars would seem to be a more probable cost. 

    "The public deserves to know that an alternative solution has been suggested to the bridge authorities which will cost nearer to $1 million in its entirety. The alternative solution merely adopts a safety barrier system that has been uses for many years on other bridges. It uses three thin steel barriers which are never moved. The different configurations needed to accommodate changes in traffic flow - 4/2, 3/3, and 2/4-are achieved simply by changing the permitted usage of the lanes. 

    "The first part of this procedure exactly describes the present system that is in use on the bridge today, and has been for many years past. However, the traffic flows today are separated and kept apart only by plastic pins and mere lines on the road's surface. What is lacking is cross-over barriers that will end the tragedies. 

    "Such barriers, surpassing strength requirements and only seven inches wide, were invented years ago. They need only to be installed. Installation will require about three months instead of two or three years. Maintenance is negligible.  Operating costs are trifling. No personnel are required other than those employed today. The bridge can be safe from all crossover accidents for one-seventh of the cost of the project presently being financed." 

    At a time when District officials are engaged in long negotiations and bidding processes to sell advertising space on the back of the busses for a few thousand dollars, it is inappropriate for them to ignore information that holds the possibility of saving five or six million dollars on a barrier. I offer to meet with any group of interest citizens who wish to learn more about the strange background of the barrier story.

  Rand Knox, San Rafael: "Whether the flexible movable barrier or a fixed permanent barrier is used does not address the projected long term problems of increased traffic volumes. So a barrier whether fixed or permanent is merely a temporary fix of a very specific problem. The movable barrier for traffic separation is appealing, as it offers some flexibility over the short run, but it will not prevent rear-enders or side-to-side accidents. It can also be pushed out of shape, causing vehicles in the opposite direction to scatter to avoid impacting the barrier. Permanent barriers are not as flexible.

    However, if the two center lanes were separated from each other and from the outside two lanes on both sides with permanent lane dividers, this would permit north/south commute lanes flexibility, with some reduction in traffic flow efficiencies, and essentially eliminate head-on collisions. "The movable barrier could then he used at the bridge approaches to articulate traffic into the three and three, or four and two, commute or off-peak traffic lane configurations.  

    Traffic in the center two lanes could not change lanes, but traffic in the two outside lanes could. More adequate anticipatory and approach signs showing lane diagrams would reclaim some additional traffic flow efficiencies and could reduce the potential for accidents caused in jockeying for lanes; an important feature, given that many tourists unfamiliar with the terrain drive this route while sightseeing. "A long view approach would see something like a "BART lite- rail, or high-speed monorail from Sonoma County to the city' across or beneath the bridge." 
Harold Clinton Brown, San Rafael: "Those seeking to prevent accidents on the Golden Gate Bridge overlook the well trained and efficient California Highway Patrol. Oddly, the state commissioner of the Highway Patrol has permitted a policy of mild enforcement of traffic laws on the bridge. The patrol's officers now issue only two or three citations per day to speeders and other careless or reckless drivers.  "(Doubled fines) will be futile if the Highway Patrol continues to 'look the other way' at speeders and other offenders."

    "The bridge authority reports that 65,000 vehicles cross the bridge in a southerly direction through the toll gate each day.  A fair estimate is that a like number cross in a northerly direction. Thousands of these drivers ignore the   45 miles-per-hour speed limit, and many are negligent in changing 'lanes. "Automobile drivers normally fear the patrol officer. They are aware of the ignominy of the siren and arrest, the citation and the fine, along with the increase in their automobile insurance rates. This fear of arrest does not apply to drivers on the bridge, as it is virtually unsupervised and uncontrolled. Drivers take every advantage of this freedom from effective surveillance, resulting in a dangerous and deadly highway. "A bill recently passed by the California Legislature ... will double the fine for those guilty of speeding on the Golden Gate Bridge. 

    The fines for exceeding the 45miles per hour speed limit on the bridge will range from $77 to $250. This legislation will be futile if the Highway Patrol continues to 'look the other way' at speeders and other offenders. "Strict enforcement of the traffic laws can be accomplished by assigning more officers to patrol with the aid of a modernized radio communications system. The 'speeder' need only be spotted by the officer and reported to the toll gate for detention. "It appears that if the Highway Patrol makes a radical change in its present policy of inaction to one of strict enforcement the fines will be more than sufficient to pay for the acquisition of modern detection equipment. 
    It will also eliminate the need for a barrier between the lanes with its attendant great cost.  More importantly, a vigilant Highway Patrol will make drivers aware of the severe consequences of speeding or recklessness on the bridge. The result should be a much safer highway."

Dave Sutton, Sonoma:  "As one who drives across the Golden Gate Bridge on a frequent basis, I truly believe that a median barrier is the immediate answer to head-on collisions. A median barrier would totally eliminate the possibility of a head-on accident. "Banning lane changing is another solution that could positively prevent crossover head-on collisions.  That makes sense especially in the southbound direction, where there are no exits that require lane changing.     (You're going into the toll plaza.) "No one really needs to change lanes going northbound from the north tower, either. "The proper placement of a few signs is all it would take to save lives. It's not a very expensive solution to the problem, and can be done quickly before we have another tragedy. Why not?"

"Crack down on speeders first" 
It's foolish to consider any barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge before trying more simple measures. In any case, a barrier will reduce the width of the lanes, making it too difficult for buses. The future obviously holds a much greater need for buses. How else do we handle the growing population? 

    Excessive speed and reckless driving are the immediate problems, and we could try some simple solutions first.  We can put two people in a car that goes back and forth exactly at the speed limit. The passenger, using binoculars, records the license number of any car that passes or travels recklessly. If this violates some dumb law, get it changed. 

    I know the authorities will bring up many reasons we can do this, but let's do it anyway. The California Highway Patrol has no imagination, and the Golden Gate Bridge District board is a notorious dinosaur. We shouldn't have to risk people's lives while they fumble around.

"Build a permanent barrier" 
I had the great experience of being present when the Golden Gate Bridge was opened. At that time, it was three lanes north and three lanes south. I agree with the IJ editorial (July 14) saying it's time to "bite the bullet." Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year changing lanes in the morning and afternoon? Why even consider spending millions for machines and men for a movable barrier? With four lanes north and two south in the afternoon, the jam south goes past the tunnel and sometimes to Marin City. Is this fair?  Of course not. 

    How much time is saved with the extra lane? Five to 10 minutes? What about Doyle Drive, another killer? And San Francisco will not move its position on the "no fix." Most Marin residents are not aware that the Golden Gate Bridge District is controlled by a majority of San Francisco directors. Thousands upon thousands of homes will be built north of us in the next two decades. 

    We will never catch up unless we build another bridge. It will take you one, two or three hours to commute. Let's make three north and three south a permanent thing, with a solid, 6inch padded barrier right down the middle. Everyone gets a fair shake, and the district saves millions. This is a tough call, but I know most people feel as I do when stuck in traffic and the HOV lane is clear or has very few fast moving cars. I am a firm believer of no lane-changing and very tough speed control.
"One bridge speed for all lanes" 
This may seem too simple to work, but I think it would have a noticeable effect on the Golden Gate Bridge: Put up several signs that say, "Speed limit is 45 mph in all lanes."   Take down the sign that says, "Slower traffic keep right."  These are psychological steps that may slow traffic. The sign would help ease the pressure drivers in the far left-also the most dangerous lane-feel to speed up. This lane on the bridge is not a fast lane, as on a freeway. The flow speeds should be equal in all lanes.
"No changing lanes!" 
Regarding your editorial, "Enforce the speed. limit"  (Aug 9): That would be a useful first step, but what is really need to avoid head-on collisions . is a huge sign at each end: "NO CHANGING LANES!"

"Return Home Safe"