Head-on accident on Golden Gate Bridge renews calls for concrete barrier 

The latest head-on collision on the Golden Gate Bridge has advocates again calling for the installation of a median barrier on the span, but that project’s completion date has now been pushed back to 2013 — 18 months after it was originally supposed to be finished.

About 8 p.m. Sunday night, a Colma man caused a multivehicle accident when his Mercedes rear-ended a car in front of him, sending vehicles careening into opposite lanes of the bridge. No one was seriously injured, but the wreck highlighted the bridge’s lack of a median barrier — a divider designed to prevent exactly such a head-on collision.

In 2009, the Golden Gate Bridge transit district began what was supposed to be a 20-month process installing a moveable median barrier — a divider that can be adjusted to accommodate different traffic flows for the morning and evening commutes.

Initially, the bridge district said the barrier would be in place by the end of this year, but the installation date has since been pushed back to early 2013, spokeswoman Mary Currie said.

The foot-wide, 32-inch high barrier, composed of high-density concrete, will be moved by heavy-duty vehicles called barrier-transfer machines.

Currie said staff shortages at the bridge district and at Caltrans have contributed to a longer-than-expected wait for studies of the median barrier. She also said the studies are complicated due to the bridge’s status as a historic

“It’s unfortunate that this is taking longer, but we’re on it,” Currie said. “We know we’ll get there, and now early 2013 is the target.”

Robert M. Guernsey, founder of advocacy group Citizens for a Safe Golden Gate Bridge, expressed disappointment that the project has been stalled again.

“I’m really wondering if this thing will ever get put in place,” Guernsey said. “There is no reason for this project to take this long. Without the barrier, people’s lives are at stake.”

The bridge district has already secured funding for the $25 million project, which will replace existing rubber pylons.

Last August, two people were hurt in a four-car accident that featured a head-on collision. In March 2008, seven people were hurt in a 10-vehicle crash that stemmed from a head-on collision. In May 2008, three people were injured in a head-on collision started after one car sideswiped another.

The bridge hasn’t had a traffic fatality since 2001, and the last fatality from a head-on collision came in 1988.


Golden Gate Bridge toll


Late 2011: Original installation date of moveable median barrier on Golden Gate Bridge.
Early 2013: Revised installation date of moveable median barrier.
$25 million: Cost of moveable median barrier.
39 million: Annual automobile traffic on Golden Gate Bridge.
2001: Year of last traffic fatality on Golden Gate Bridge.
1988: Year of last traffic fatality from head-on collision.

Source: Golden Gate Bridge transit district

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