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Work slow on bridge barrier
District facing money shortage

By Mark Prado
IJ reporter

    The likelihood of a traffic barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge soon is slim as the district struggles to find money for other projects, including a seismic upgrade of the span. Two years ago, the Golden Gate Bridge District board approved the concept of a traffic barrier on the span.  When the plan was approved in 1998, bridge officials said the $7 million barrier could be up within 38 months.  Does that mean motorists will now-24 months later see the barrier within 14 months?   “I think it is still doable in that time frame, but there are no funds for construction at this time,” said Bridge engineer Mervin Giacomini.

    The barrier project has been overshadowed by the massive $297 million retrofit project, designed to have the bridge withstand an 8.3-magnitude earthquake. The district is still short millions of dollars on the project. A $7 million electronic toll system has also occupied bridge officials’ attention. That is set to begin in July.

    Robert M. Guernsey of San Anselmo, who heads Citizens for a Safe Golden Gate Bridge, says the bridge district has not worked hard enough to make the barrier happen. “Little has happened since 1998,” Guernsey said. “They do not care about safety at all. They have the retrofit on their minds, and that’s it. They have not moved forward in a timely manner.”

    Guernsey said that the first contract signed to do initial engineering work was not approved by the board until last August, and wasn’t signed until February. The $35,000 contract with New York City-based Parsons Brinckerhoff for preliminary engineering will determine the feasibility of the 1-foot wide, 32-inch-high barrier.

    Among other things, the firm is evaluating lane configurations on the bridge, developing an emergency response procedure to get crews across the barrier and investigate equipment storage options.  Computer simulations to illustrate what it is like to drive next to the barrier will be developed. The study is due this summer.  “Things are moving forward, they are just moving a little more slowly than some would like, but that’s what it takes to get this engineering work done,” bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie said.

   1996 on the six-lane bridge spurred a push for the median.  Thirty-four people have died and hundreds more have been injured in crashes on the span since bridge officials began compiling accident statistics in 1970.  Twenty-six of those fatalities occurred in head-on crashes.  In recent years, the bridge district has imposed several measures aimed at improving bridge safety. Speeds were lowered to 45mph, enforcement of speed violations was heightened and fines increased for speeders.

                                                                                    Marin Independent Journal    Monday, May 22, 2000
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