(CNSNews.com) – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi joined other Bay Area Democrats Thursday to “honor the deep moral responsibility to save lives wherever and whenever we can.”
She spoke at an event marking the start of a long-planned and long-delayed project: Construction on a $204-million suicide-prevention net, to be installed 20 feet below the roadbed of the Golden Gate Bridge, the famous landmark that connects San Francisco to Marin County.
“In this Holy season of Easter and Passover, we recognize again and again, that every single life is so valuable,” Pelosi said on Thursday. “In every one of them a spark of divinity, in every one of them a child of God, every one of them precious, precious to us. Every loss, though it be in your family, is a loss to all of us.”
Pelosi called Thursday’s event “bittersweet,” reflecting “joy at the prospect of saving lives,” but sadness for the lives already lost. Relatives of bridge-jumpers were there to share their stories.
Bridge officials say 233 people came to the bridge last year, planning to jump off, but 184 were stopped, most by bridge patrol officers or calls to crisis hotlines installed on the span. Thirty-nine people killed themselves.
A 2014 federal highway and transit bill allowed taxpayer money to be used for life-saving barriers and nets on bridges.
The $204-million cost ($211 million including design and environmental expenses) includes federal and state funding, and it is “double what we had estimated when we started the fight, but the things got more costly and the responsibility more urgent,” Pelosi said on Thursday.
“So people would say to us isn't that a lot of money for a net? And I'd said: 'No, it's not a lot of money for a life, for all of these lives that will be saved.'”
Construction on the steel net is expected to begin next month, after protections for workers are installed. The project is due to be completed in 2021.
Pelosi said the net will provide a “critical second chance, maybe more than that for troubled young and old, men and women, often acting on often impulsive thoughts.”
The suicide deterrent project is the first large-scale horizontal net installation on a major bridge in the United States, according to the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.
At 385,000 square feet, it will be almost the size of 7 football fields, suspended 220 feet in the air above the Bay.
The deterrent will consist of a stainless steel net, installed about 20 feet down from the main bridge roadway, extending 20 feet out, with a slight raise on the outer edge. The net will be installed along both sides of the bridge, running 1.7 miles in each direction. It will be constructed to have minimal visual impact.