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Commuter Times, March 29, 1996 

New Bridge Barrier Designed by San Anselmo Inventor 
Guernsey Will Present Model to Bridge Board in June
 
by Bill Meagher and Peter Seidman

    A San Anselmo inventor has designed a bridge barrier that he believes could prevent head-on collisions on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Robert M.Guernsey will go to the Golden Gate Bridge District Board of Directors in June with his proposal for computer controlled barriers that would automatically rise from recessed slots in the roadbed to divide oncoming traffic.  According to the district's Bridge Division Manager Robert Warren, the district's building and operations committee asked Guernsey to present his design in April.  But Guernsey said he doesn't want to make a presentation until he has time to drum up public support for his plan and show people how his system would work. "I want the people of Marin to see how it works and see the model before I officially take it to the district," he said. 
    Guernsey is taking his case directly to Marin residents. He will bring a working  model of his barrier design to Marin shopping centers, so he can show people exactly how it would work. He will be at the Corte Madera Town Center on April 6 from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. On April 20, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., he will be at the Bon Air shopping center. On April 27, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., he will be at the Red Hill shopping center. On May 4, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., he will be at the Montecito shopping center. 
    Although a number of bridge barrier systems already have been proposed, the bridge board has, for a variety of reasons, rejected each one as being unfeasible form an engineering or safety standpoint.  Some critics of the bridge district say the board has rejected barrier proposals that could have worked. They also say the district is dragging its heels to the detriment of safety. 

    Warren said the criticism is undeserved. "The directors have turned the previous proposals down for good reasons, not because we don't want a barrier. On the contrary, if we had a proposal in front of us that would work, I'm quite sure the directors would be very interested in pursuing it." Bridge directors now may find themselves under more pressure to pursue barrier proposals because of a lawsuit brought in October of 1995 by David Sutton. 
    The 41-year-old Sonoma resident was involved in a November 1994 head-on collision in which he lost his right leg and four fingers on his right hand. He filed a lawsuit in Marin Superior Court charging that the bridge is unsafe and should be closed until a barrier or other means of separating traffic can be installed. Marin Superior Court Judge Terry Boren ruled in February that the lawsuit had legal merit and Sutton can proceed with his case. Warren said he would not comment specifically on Guernsey's proposal for a barrier, or any barrier proposal, as long as the Sutton suit is pending. 

    The last barrier proposal that the bridge district rejected was submitted by Barrier Systems Inc, based in Carson City, Nevada. District staff determined that the proposed barrier would necessitate removing one lane from the already congested bridge. Guernsey, an elevator technician who has worked on the bridge's tower elevators, said his proposal deals with many of the concerns the district board voiced when it reviewed past proposals. His design, he said, would not require any major construction to the bridge's roadbed or guard rails. "The district has only the existing bridge to work with, so any barrier has to work within the confines of what is already there; mine does that," he said. 
    His proposal, which he estimates would cost as much at $20 million, calls for barriers made of rectangular galvanized steel tubes six inches wide by two inched deep. They would be set into the roadbed where lane markers now exist and rise from the roadbed via pneumatic cylinders to divide whichever lanes need to be separated, depending on the time of day and traffic flow. Robert Atchison of Rexroth Worldwide Pneumatic has helped Guernsey design the system.  During each scheduled changeover, the lanes workers and safety vehicles drive between the lanes that will be changed, as this is completed the new lanes configuration will be raised out of the road surface, and the old configuration will be lowered in the road surface simultaneously, creating anew lane configuration and a permanent safety barrier.
 
    Guernsey decided to try his hand at a barrier design after reading accounts of the bridge district's project to retrofit project the span for earthquake safety. "I thought to myself that the district was trying to make the bridge safer in a quake; we should be trying to make it safer everyday," he said. While he was working on a computer design of the barrier, his computer crashed, forcing him to begin over again with only a few elements of his first design. "While it was a setback, it was also a blessing because it made me focus more clearly on elements of the original design that didn't work as well as they should have," he said. 
    Wishing to give his proposal very possible chance to gain approval in front of the district board of directors, Guernsey is trying to line up public support for his project. To aid him, he has enlisted the help of Frank Schweiger and Lucien Remy, who are gathering signatures to place an advisory initiative on the November ballot that would pressure the bridge district to find a barrier system that works and install it as soon as possible. Schweiger was injured in a head-on accident on the bridge a dozen years ago. Remy's great uncle submitted a barrier proposal that the district board rejected in 1988. 

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