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While this year’s suicide toll from the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge continues to grow, the planned installation of stop-gap “bird spike” barrier will have to wait.
Caltrans, the state agency that manages the bridge, announced this month that the barrier won’t be installed until the first part of 2019 at the earliest because a review process must come first.
“It’s way too long for me,” said Wayne Strickland, a retired Coronado firefighter who leads the Bridge Collaborative for Suicide Prevention. “It’s disappointing that they didn’t put up a fence and are taking a long time to do the spikes suicide deterrent.”
But Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey, a vocal supporter of a barrier to prevent suicides, said he’s encouraged that Caltrans is making progress.
In May, Caltrans announced that it was exploring the installation of “bird spikes,” similar to those used under the eaves of some highway bridges to keep birds away. The plan is to install the spikes on the sides of the bridge to make it harder to get a handhold and jump.
Caltrans staff members tested materials for the bird spikes and are working on a report about its findings, said Caltrans spokesman Ed Joyce. The agency will then send the report to regulators and try to get permission to install the spikes, which are estimated to cost $100,000 to $300,000, Joyce said.
The funding may come from money allocated to the local Caltrans division, Joyce said.
About 400 people have jumped from the bridge to their deaths over its 49-year history, and the number of annual suicides has jumped over the last several years, reflecting a countywide trend. The death toll reached a near-record last year when 18 people jumped to their deaths, and suicides have continued this year.
Several “suicide magnet” bridges worldwide have dramatically reduced deaths by installing barriers. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the site of more than 1,400 suicides, is installing a $221 million net to catch jumpers. Officials this year said suicides have fallen there because more officers are patrolling the bridge and helping those who appear suicidal.
Bailey, who’s pushed for a barrier to prevent suicides and bridge closures, said that while the bird-spike plan “might not be a perfect solution happening as quickly as everyone would like, I appreciate Caltrans pursuing both a short-term and long-term fix.”