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    Ross Valley Reporter                                                                                                                      July 30-August 5, 1997

Local proponents of median barrier 
urge GGB board to quit stalling

By: ERICA WENTWORTH  Staff Reporter


    Numerous serious injuries and fatal accidents on the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District, have become a serious issue placing the Golden Gate Bridge District (GGB, H&TD) under increasing pressure to implement a safer traffic corridor between San Francisco and the Northbay. Recent fatalities have fueled public anger, which resulted in the immediate step to enforce the 45-mph speed limit by levying heavy fines on speeders. A proposal, which was first presented in the 1980s, to install a barrier is still under consideration. Currently, GGB,H&TD is considering a one-foot, concrete, steel-plated, Movable median barrier proposed by Barrier Systems Inc. (BSI).

     GGB,H&TD, requested crash test studies and traffic and accident reports to assist in its evaluation of the barrier proposal. A modification of the original proposal to install a 2-foot barrier on the bridge. John Duckett, president of BSI, stated that BSI is conducting studies on the feasibility of installing a one-foot barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge. "The District agreed to pay for crash testing and traffic studies, so we went to work engineering it," said Duckett.

    The BSI proposal is not the first barrier proposal the Bridge District has considered. Marin County resident Robert M. Guernsey, who is a "Conceptualist in Design and Engineering," initiated the effort to install a barrier on the GGB, a proposal GGB,H&TD rejected. 

     Mr. Guernsey formed the organization in 1996, called: "Citizens for a Safe Golden Gate Bridge." Which is based in San Anselmo, CA  He and Frank Schweiger, Danna Kirkbride, both director are victims of a head-on collisions, one on the bridge, and the other in Doyle Drive. Citizens for a Safe Golden Gate Bridge, is still very much involved with the barrier issue today four years later.

    They said they "Won't stop being vocal about installing of any Movable median barrier until one is in place on the Bridge" One of the main reasons "Citizens for a Safe Golden Gate Bridge" would like to see the barrier system installed is the fact that there have been 34 fatalities on the Bridge since 1970 and many injury accidents like one that left Schweiger seriously injured in 1984. The one-foot median barrier for the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

    Mervin Giacomini, the Bridge District's Engineer, said. "I think it's a critical issue, however, the Golden Gate Bridge has a lower accident rate, including fatality and injury accidents on Doyle Drive, than many divided freeways with barriers. "'Giacomini said there-is a lot to consider in planning to put a Movable median barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge. "The District operates from toll revenues and financing the barrier project is an important question." Giacomini said. Issues that need to be addressed include reduced sight distance. Emergency Service response time, and reduced lane width.

      E-Tech tested BSI's barrier to ascertain whether it can withstand crashes without causing greater hazards on the Bridge. A car the size of a Ford Festiva and a 3/4 ton pickup truck were crashed into the barrier at a 20-degree angle going 62 mph. In both cases tests produced results confirming that the barrier will withstand each crash without the vehicle penetrating or going over it, and that the barrier will redirect the vehicle back into the roadway. Northwestern University Traffic Institute analyzed benefits of the barrier preventing crossover accidents versus the risk of creating other accidents like rear-endings and sideswipes. The traffic study also examined emergency response time and reduced sight distance when the barrier is in place, as well as potential for accidents caused by reduced lane widths.

      Currently the two inner lanes on the Bridge are 10 feet wide and the outer lanes arc I feet wide. When the barrier is in the center of the six lanes, one or both of the two inner lanes will be reduced to 9.5 feet wide, a total of 2.5 feet narrower than normal 12 foot lanes. If the barrier median proposal is accepted, it would take approximately 20 minutes to transfer sections of the barrier. 

    Giacomini said, about the same time it takes to transfer pylons under the current lane change system. He also said that the traffic would be able to flow over the Bridge while the transfer happened, just as it does now.  Preliminary estimates indicate installation of the barrier system would cost $7- 8 million. Evaluation and board consideration of the BSI median barrier proposal will continue when the results of the crash test and traffic study reports are made available to the District's Building and Operating Committee. A hearing was scheduled for the GGB,H&TD regular meeting on Friday, September 5, 1997. Nevertheless, no meeting have been scheduled yet for this vital issue.

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