H-SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

May 31, 2011 9:55 PM by Ariel Wesler

Judge approves Cold Spring Bridge suicide barrier

A Santa Barbara Superior Court judge ruled Caltrans can get back to work on the Cold Spring Bridge suicide barrier. The agency began construction on the barrier last June. A judge stopped the project in July and asked for more review and public input. The bridge links Santa Ynez with Santa Barbara. Over the years, dozens of people have committed suicide by jumping from the bridge.

Later this year, your drive over the Cold Spring Bridge could look more like this. A judge ruled Caltrans can resume construction on its $670,000 suicide barrier.

"When we see a pattern of fatalities like we've seen out there, we have a strong obligation to do something about it," said Caltrans Spokesperson Jim Shivers.

Since the bridge was built in 1963, Caltrans says around 55 people have jumped to their death. That's an average of about one suicide a year.

It's taken Caltrans five years to get to this point, but people like David Silva question if the barrier will really be effective. One of his coworkers jumped from the bridge.

"They'll find a way if they're suicidal," Silva said.

He wants to see the bridge remain untouched, like most of the natural setting surrounding it.

"You can see through [the barrier], but it's not the same as open. It's looking through a fence," Silva said.

"It was not built as a place to enjoy the view," Shivers said.

Caltrans says there are plenty of other viewpoints along Highway 154.

"At 55 miles an hour, attention should be on driving and motorist safety and watching for oncoming traffic," Shivers said.

And plenty of different perspectives on what remains a controversial decision.

"I really love that bridge, but it's something we'll adapt to," Silva said.

The last reported suicide was in February. Caltrans says the decision will also help law enforcement, who have responded to cases where people are contemplating suicide and disrupting traffic.

We tried contacting the attorney for Friends of the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge, but he did not respond to our request for comment.

Caltrans says work will resume this summer, and that the project should be complete by the end of this year. Shivers says similar barriers have been effective in other places they've been installed.

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