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Inventor touts 
bridge barrier
Wednesday, February 21, 1996
Marin Independent Journal  Reporter
By Guy Ashley
 


   
Robert Guernsey has taken an unusual approach in trying to break the Golden Gate Bridge Board’s long-standing resistance to a median barrier to prevent head-on crashes on the famous span.  Guernsey, a San Anselmo inventor, is proposing that three barriers be built on the bridge.  The barriers would be built into a 2” x 6" inch grooves cut into the road surface along the three inside lane markers and would be fully retractable- meaning they would become part of the road surface when not in use.

    When activated by a computerized control system, pistons driven by air-pneumatic pressure would force all of the six-inch steel barriers out of the road to create a formidable obstacle to head-on crash. Deciding which barrier to use would depend on which direction the heaviest commute is occurring. Bridge directors have long claimed, a barrier must be Movable so that four traffic lanes can be maintained in either direction during heavy commutes.  

 

    “You could raise and lower the barrier without having workers risking their lives out on the bridge placing and removing cones” that are currently used to divide oppos­ing traffic, Guernsey said. Guernsey unveiled his “Retractable Delineator System,” the fruit of three years’ work, yesterday at the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael.  Because it is much narrower than existing models, Guernsey says it answers the bridge district’s long-held stance that a barrier would take up too much room on a span where traffic lanes are unusually narrow.  
    
    Guernsey's barrier has even prompted one bridge director, Marin Supervisor Hal Brown, to say it’s an “exciting” development in the search for I ways to make the bridge safer for motorists.  
The premiere adds further steam to the median barrier issue, which has been rekindled by a head-on crash victim’s lawsuit and an ongoing petition drive to provide voters the chance to demand further studies on a barrier’s feasibility.  
    Until now, the most accepted form of Movable barrier is made of concrete slabs connected by pliable steel belts. Bridge directors have long held that such a barrier is unworkable because its two-foot thickness would take up too much space on a span where traffic lanes already are unusually narrow.  Guernsey says his barriers answer that concern “because they’re no wider than the lines dividing traffic lanes, give or take a few inches.”  

    The one sticking point: an estimated price tag of up to $20 million. Brown, the one Bridge Board member who attended yesterday’s unveiling, said Guernsey’s system causes him to believe that the Bridge Board should reconsider its stance that a barrier to prevent head-on crashes is unworkable. “I don’t think there’s ever been an invention like this that’s ever been brought before the board before,” he said.

     But Carney Campion, the district’s general manager, said he resented Guernsey’s attempt to gain accolades through the news media before even approaching bridge engineers. Chairman-Robert Guernsey, A Conceptualist in Designs & Engineering, made a requested in September of 1995, to the president of the Board; Mr. Robert McDonald, to go before the full Board of Directors for a presentation of the patented Retractable Delineator System.  His request was declined. This action forced Mr. Guernsey to hold a press conference on February 20, 1996 in San Rafael, to show the public that a Movable Median Traffic Barrier would work on the world famous Golden Gate Bridge.   

     “We’ve been inviting him to present his idea to us for three years so we could try to stop his attempt in traffic safety on our span, and he’s never come to a meeting,” Campion said. “If he’s going to do something with our structure, he should at least let us give our two cents about what will work.” Even Brown admitted the high cost of such a barrier means tax payers would likely be asked to foe at least some of the bill.  

   
Guernsey, whose inventions include a spring loaded "Belt Lock Clip" to hold a Stanley tape measures, walkman brand radio, and cellular telephones, said he plans to approach the Bridge Board with his newest invention, but not until petition drive to put the barrier issue before Marin voters gains more steam.

     Fairfax resident, Lucien Remy is helping Robert Guernsey in leading a drive to place an advisor initiative before Marin voters in November that would ask the Bridge Board to launch new studies into ways of preventing head-on crashes, including new barrier concepts and "New Ideas" for safety on the bridge.

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