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San Diego residents mull suicide barrier on iconic bridge
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SAN DIEGO (AP) — A group of San Diego residents is studying the feasibility of adding a barrier to the city’s iconic Coronado Bridge to prevent people from jumping to their deaths.

Since the bridge to popular Coronado Island opened in 1969, about 300 people have committed suicide there, jumping from the 200-foot span and into San Diego Bay.

Hundreds others have gone to the bridge to attempt suicide, only to change their minds or be pulled back to safety before they jump. And suicide-related traffic delays are a regular occurrence.

The problem has prompted a group of local residents to form the Coronado Bridge Collaborative, which is examining the idea of a suicide-prevention barrier. The group includes mental-health professionals, nurses and relatives of those who have committed suicide off the bridge.

“It feels irresponsible not to at least take a look at the possibilities,” said Jennifer Lewis, a college professor and co-founder of the collaborative.

Members have been sharing notes with a similar group in San Francisco that pushed through a $76 million plan to put a steel net on the Golden Gate Bridge, where more than 1,400 people have jumped to their deaths since its opening in 1937.

The net, expected to be in place by 2019, won approval following decades of debate over whether a barrier would be effective, whether it would mar the beauty of the bridge and whether it would be worth the cost.

Lewis said her group anticipates similar debates in San Diego.

The group plans to do a feasibility study and is looking into getting a grant with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to fund costs.

The feasibility study would examine whether the bridge is strong enough to support the additional weight of a fence or whether a net would interfere with Navy ships passing underneath.

In San Francisco, more than a dozen alternatives were considered before a net was chosen. It will be 20 feet below the roadway, and extend out 20 feet over the water.

Lewis said it’s soon early to know what kind of modification, if any, would work on the Coronado Bridge, or whether there will be community support.

“If a barrier isn’t feasible, we will move on to something else,” she said. “The problem isn’t going away.”