Local News

Jul 13, 2010 9:01 PM by Monica Quintero

Work on suicide barrier on hold on Cold Spring Bridge

A Santa Barbara County judge puts the breaks on a controversial suicide barrier under construction at the Cold Spring Bridge. Caltrans says the suicide barrier is greatly needed for safety, but others say it will take away from the bridge's beauty. Dozens of people have committed suicide off the bridge on Highway 154 in Santa Barbara County. That led to plans for a suicide barrier which Caltrans began constructing last month. Caltrans says the cost of the project is $778,000.

Since the Cold Spring Bridge opened in 1964, Caltrans says there have been 53 suicides. Gib Poiry, suicide barrier opponent, said, "I'm not so sure you can prevent it by putting up a barrier." Poiry is compassionate about the issue. He said, "I feel badly about that." But Poiry and others believe the suicide barrier will change the appearance of this historic bridge. Poiry said, "It's one of the rare bridges of its type here in southern California." John Locke, works near bridge, said, "A lot of people are upset because it's going to change the look of the bridge."

Along with the historical value, some are concerned about the cost of adding a barrier especially in these difficult times. Locke said, "I think it's a waste of money." But Caltrans still stands by its initial plan. Jim Shivers, Caltrans spokesperson, said, "We feel it's one that is necessary." Officials says it will also improve safety for drivers including law enforcement officers and emergency crews responding to incidents in the area. Shivers said, "I should point out we are fully committed to this very important safety project. "

So what is the answer? Poiry has a solution but admits it's not practical. He said, "The only way I think they could stop that is if they were to have somebody there, a guard or a monitor watching the bridge all the time." The issue will head back to court in late August. The judge will hear from both sides before making a final decision on whether the work can continue.

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