SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The effort to put suicide prevention barriers on the Coronado Bridge will take a significant step forward this week, as Caltrans will hold a pair of "open house"-style public meetings to discuss options with people who live in San Diego.
The meetings are Wednesday, August 9, at the Cesar Chavez Center (1901 Main Street )in Barrio Logan, and Thursday, August 10, at the Coronado Public Library (640 Orange Avenue). Both meetings run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
A Caltrans spokesperson stressed this is just the beginning of what could be a long process, and the meetings are designed for people to look at and comment on different options for the bridge.
Since it was built, almost 400 people have committed suicide by jumping off the bridge. That includes 17 in 2016, which was the second deadliest year in the bridge's history.
Members of the Coronado-San Diego Bridge Collaborative for Suicide Prevention say they hope Caltrans will speed up the process.
"We love the bridge, we love the community," said Rhonda Haiston, one of the group's founding members. "We just want this to be a safe place for everyone, including mentally unwell people."
Recently, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco got approval for construction of netting to prevent suicides. And the Canyon Springs Arch Bridge in Santa Barbara had fences built along its sides for the same purpose. The Collaborative hopes something similar is done in San Diego.
"The entire North and South sides of the bridge need some kind of barrier," said Haiston. "Something that keeps people from coming to the ledge and being able to hop right over because the wall is just 34 inches tall right now."
Monday, the Port Commission announced a plan to add LED lights to the bridge. Haiston said she worries those could make it an even more popular destination for suicide.
"People who are suicidal are attracted to beautiful, iconic locations to end their lives," she said. "The bridge already fits that criteria, without lights."
Haiston said lights would be OK, if the deterrent is also put in place.
In the meantime, she plans to attend the meeting in Coronado to tell Caltrans to move as quickly as they can on this project.
San Diego County offers several programs to help people who are having suicidal thoughts. The hotline phone number is 888-724-7240, and you can also go to the website, up2sd.org.
Meanwhile, Sen. Ben Hueso has introduced a bill in the California Legislature calling for funding of a feasibility study on ways to make the bridge safer. Senate Bill 480 passed, and is now waiting on a vote from the Assembly.
It focuses on suicide and also driving dangers.
Last year, four people died when a driver flipped his truck off the bridge. It landed on a gathering in Chicano Park. That driver, Richard Sepolio, will stand trial on four charges of gross vehicular manslaughter and DUI.