Friday, October 17, 2008

SBCAG reaffirms support for suicide barrier plan


Despite voicing their support for a proposal to build suicide barriers on Cold Spring Arch Bridge more than two years ago, local and regional leaders decided to reaffirm that support yesterday with a unanimous vote.
Directors of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments heard testimony from barrier supporters and those in opposition before delivering a clear message.

“I love that bridge and I love the view from it,” said Brooks Firestone, board chairman and county supervisor, describing how he has driven across the span many times in the past 36 years. “…But I am absolutely convinced that Caltrans has made the right decision.”
Although first proposed in 2005 by a group of stakeholders that included Caltrans, the Glendon Association and the Sheriff’s Department, the plan didn’t raise a fuss in the community until last summer.
Following a series of public meetings to showcase the barrier design, some members of the community began to call into question the effectiveness of barriers and lamented the visual impact of the bridge.
Marc McGinnes has been perhaps the most outspoken detractor, arguing yesterday that statistics show that suicide attempts on bridge, in perspective, is a problem that doesn’t require a “radically defacing” solution.
“They argue that those of us who oppose defacing the bridge and would have to put up with this ugly experience as we cross this beautifully scenic bridge, that we’re just being callous,” he said.
He urged the board to consider his alternative plan — training law enforcement not to risk their life to save a suicidal subject, installing cameras and speaker boxes, installing a higher safety railing, closing the bridge to pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles, and eliminating turnouts near the bridge.
“It’s so simple and so obvious,” McGinnes said, echoing his previous characterizations of the proposed barriers as a “boondoggle.”
Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett, a retired firefighter, took issue with the suggestion that first responders be trained not to risk their lives to save someone, saying it goes against everything they stand for.
“I actually resent any reference or inference that this is a boondoggle,” he said.
Sheriff Bill Brown also spoke in favor of the barrier plan, describing the dangerous conditions that emergency personnel and law enforcement face when handling a suicide call on the bridge.
Considering the railing stands less than three feet high from the concrete curb, he said deputies are at risk of being pulled over if they attempt to grab a suicidal subject.
Recovering the bodies of those who do jump is also a dangerous task, Sheriff Brown said, noting the rugged and steep terrain. Rescues occasional require helicopters to hover close to the bridge or searchers to rappel down into the brush, he added.
“We believe the barrier will save lives and better protect public safety first responders who deal with calls on the bridge,” he said.
Officials said the span, built in 1963, has been the site of 46 suicides — with three occurring this year. Caltrans statistics show the bridge has the highest concentration of suicides across five counties on the Central Coast.
Total construction costs for the barrier proposal are estimated at just above $1 million, with environmental review, design and support costs adding another $2.3 million. The project is fully funded by Caltrans and construction is slated for 2010.
While SBCAG has no approval authority over the project, the board recommended unanimously that the project continue forward with its support.
“I cannot see the aesthetics outweighing the human factor here,” Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Instead why don't we build the walkway over the freeway in Goleta so girls won't be run over. Like the one that happened on Labor Day. She didn't WANT to die.