The red rises of San Francisco?s Golden Gate Bridge, long a destination for suicide attempts, are one step closer to a historic safety face-lift as public comment begins on five suicide-prevention designs.
Four of the five designs would use additional fencing along the bridge?s walkways, dissuading potential jumpers and getting in the way of those who might try.
A fifth design places a retracting net 20 feet under the bridge, to catch and restrain people who have jumped over the railing.
Bridge District Spokeswoman Mary Currie said the five designs all meet specific standards, including potential cultural and historic impacts.
?We are introducing new elements, a big railing or a big net,? Currie said. ?We are changing the visitor?s experience.?
The district?s net option is the cheapest, at $25 million. Railing options could run $40 to $50 million. Those costs are expected to increase over the course of the project as the price of steel, the bridge?s main building material, continues to rise.
After selecting a plan, fund-raising for it is the next major hurdle, Currie said.
?It is the next hurdle but it is not insurmountable,? she said.
This year, 10 people have committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Twenty-nine people have been stopped in the process of attempting to jump. Last year, 38 suicides were committed on the bridge, an increase from the annual average 20 to 22 suicides.
At the district?s press conference to present the plans Monday afternoon, suicide-prevention advocates cheered what they see as a momentous move toward placing a suicide barrier across one of the world?s most historic sites.
?Anything that gets in someone?s way buys them time and saves their life,? said Eve Meyer, executive director of San Francisco Suicide Prevention. ?Suicide in the entire area will drop.?
However, tourists taking in the sights Monday were cautious of any plans that would impede their views and photo opportunities.
?Any barrier would dramatically change the charm of the bridge,? said Jimmy Castillo, visiting from Los Angeles. ?And I doubt it would prevent them from committing suicide another way. They should keep the bridge as it is, a historical site.?