For the first time ever, Caltrans will take an in-depth look at possible solutions including everything from barriers to nets on the San Diego-Coronado Bridge.
It’s a postcard backdrop and one of San Diego's most recognizable landmarks.
At the same time, the Coronado Bridge as some call it has built up an infamous reputation, bringing heartache to more people than you'd probably think.
“Kind of haunting, it doesn't go away," Bridget Santos talked about her trip across the bridge last month when she saw what she believed to be a stalled vehicle. She never expected what happened next and now she can't shake it.
"So as I look in the rear view mirror I see her throw her leg over,” Santos recalled.
Since the bridge first opened, nearly 400 people have died doing just that, affecting families, friends, and countless strangers like Bridget who still can't drive across the bridge.
“The sides of the bridge are so low, it's a beautiful landmark, but not at this cost," she said.
The effort to build barriers, fences, or nets along the bridge gained momentum in recent years thanks to symbolic votes of support by the Coronado and San Diego City Councils - but a big problem remained. Who would pay for the expensive Caltrans study looking at the best solution?
Rhonda Haiston with Coronado Bridge Collaborative Suicide Prevention said there may soon be an answer. She formed the group which has become the leading proponent for installing barriers along the bridge to deter people from jumping into the water below.
Senate Bill 480, which was approved by committee in April, would require 1 percent of Caltrans miscellaneous revenue to be spent on studies of bridge safety, with priority given to those bridges spanning state and local parks. The bill will be considered in a hearing again on May 15.
Caltrans officials said the approval of the bill in committee has helped them to fund a study.
“A low level study is going to look at minute details and environmental impact if there is any,” Haiston said. “So we're looking at a low level feasibility study, which is exactly what's needed."
Caltrans says they're in early stages of identifying the study's goals and perimeters. Officials still haven't said when the study will start or how long it will last but public input is expected to be part of the process.
But for long time suicide advocates like Haiston and new ones like Santos it can’t start soon enough.
There is a 24-hour crisis line available to anyone contemplating suicide (888) 724-7240.