Construction Suspended on Suicide Barrier for Cold Spring Canyon Bridge
A judge rules that Caltrans must get more public input on the environmental effects of the project
Construction of a suicide-prevention barrier on Cold Spring Canyon Bridge has been suspended after a judge ruled that Caltrans wasn’t fully compliant with the California Environmental Quality Act. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)
Construction of the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge suicide-prevention barrier has been temporarily suspended after a judge ruled Tuesday that Caltrans was partially noncompliant with the California Environmental Quality Act.
The civil suit was filed by Friends of the Bridge, a group of citizens represented by attorney Marc Chytilo.
Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderle issued a long ruling, writing that the draft environmental impact report didn’t address mitigation measures for historical and aesthetic impacts and didn’t identify which of the design options would be used — “thereby effectively precluding any public comment about or public participation in the development of mitigation measures.” The final document wasn’t released or circulated among the public before the project was approved.
Therefore, the project’s approval and final EIR certification were vacated, meaning Caltrans must recirculate the final EIR for public comment. All other grounds raised by Friends of the Bridge in the lawsuit — all related to procedural issues — were denied.
The ruling doesn’t apply to the advisability of constructing a barrier, merely the compliance with CEQA, and “also will likely have no impact on the ultimate determination of whether or not a suicide barrier will be constructed on the Cold Spring Bridge.”
At Tuesday’s hearing, Caltrans was represented by Ankush Agarwal, who argued that the final EIR had no substantial design, impact or mitigation measure changes from the draft.
“Recirculation is just another opportunity to comment on simple refinements,” Agarwal said.
He said Caltrans was upfront with the public in that the aesthetic and historical impacts couldn’t be entirely mitigated, but the “benefits of this project outweigh the impacts.”
Agarwal and Caltrans public information officer Jim Shivers said they’re committed to moving forward with the project, but added after a post-hearing huddle that they would temporarily suspend construction and fully comply with recirculating the final EIR.
“Basically, they skipped a step and we caught them on it,” Chytilo said.
Chytilo said he was surprised at Agarwal’s intention to proceed with construction — which began June 28 — and Anderle scheduled an Aug. 24 hearing to consider what to do about the construction. At this time, it’s unclear what the state of the bridge will be during the suspension, regarding road closures and construction equipment, Shivers said.
Marc McGinnes, an environmental lawyer, professor and activist who led the Friends of the Bridge in its earliest stages, said the group is “delighted” at the ruling.
“We pointed this out to Caltrans early on,” he said.
Colin Jones, Caltrans’ manager of public and legislative affairs, said Caltrans was concerned from a safety — not emotional — perspective and similarly would pursue erecting a guardrail if people were falling from cliffs in Big Sur, for example.
“People are using our facility to kill themselves,” he said.
The previously approved project is a 9-foot-7-inch grid-mesh barrier on both sides on the span of the bridge. The barrier curves inward at the top.
The estimated cost of the project is about $3 million, including federal stimulus funds and State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP) funds, Shivers said. Construction costs are estimated at $778,000, and the rest consists of administrative costs.
On whether the extra staff time — in filing additional litigation documents and stalled construction because of Tuesday’s ruling — would increase the cost of the project, Shivers said, “Certainly there is a cost attached to anything that we do.”
Click here to read Noozhawk’s series on the Cold Spring Canyon Bridge.
on 07.13.10 @ 03:49 PM
Stand by for a pro-barrier spam campaign in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
on 07.13.10 @ 08:53 PM
on 07.14.10 @ 12:47 AM
Think about all the potholes and rough patches on our freeways and roads that $3 million could fix! Please, stop with the bridge barriers and bulb outs. We need REAL problems fixed first.
on 07.14.10 @ 08:31 AM
Good, so now we get to look at beautiful orange plastic until the issue is resolved…...pretty.
on 07.14.10 @ 08:57 AM
on 07.14.10 @ 11:06 AM
And BTW, if you think orange plastic is pretty, wait’ll ya see miles of 10 foot high ‘suicide barrier’ aka hurricane fencing, truly one of the ugliest invention ever made.
And has anyone noticed that the pro-barrier folks when they quote studies supporting the idea that the barrier will save lives always forget to quote the equal number of studies indicating the direct opposite? Unfortunately this kind of dishonesty in debate is all too common in politics and governance.
on 07.14.10 @ 12:50 PM
The published literature substantially favors the barriers, the number of anti-barrier studies is very small compared to the pro-barrier studies. It is just that the anti-barrier folks shout the loudest…. see
which documents Marc McGinnes shouting at SBCAG outside of comment period.
Researchers at a little college out in Cambridge, Mass, known as Harvard strongly supports means reduction as effective…
Some anti-barrier folks have focused on the absence of proof that overall suicide rates have never been proven to decline due to bridge barriers. What they fail to mention is that there is no known technique to measure the effect on overall suicide rates with sufficient accuracy to resolve the issue.
on 07.14.10 @ 05:45 PM
Hey sevendolphins, can you explain to us why we should believe the Caltrans interpretation of the peer-reviewed literature on suicide barriers over the interpretation of Professor Glasgow?
on 07.14.10 @ 05:46 PM
>>“What they fail to mention is that there is no known technique to measure the effect on overall suicide rates with sufficient accuracy to resolve the issue.”
LOL! Which means we don’t know if suicide barriers work or not! You just proved my point!
LOL! That was funny.
on 07.14.10 @ 09:00 PM
Actually, sevendolphins, the antibarrier folks are no louder than the probarrier folks. They just seem louder because you disagree with them.
Forget the fence, built a compost pile in the jump zone, and be done with it. If the soul is freed at death, so what if the body isn’t recovered.
Freedom of expression. Freedom of press. Freedom of assembly. Self-determination. Free will. Right to die. All good things.
Nanny government. Interference in individuals private lives. Unending growth in government regulation and meddling. Bad things.
California is sinking under the weight of its self-indulgent, complacent, freeloading population who seem to believe government can and should solve all problems while sinking ever further into insolvency. All at someone else’s expense, of course. The barrier should not be a priority when gangs are out of control, the streets are a wreck, and litter and grafitti are everywhere. Not to mention that the state, county, and local governments seem incapable of achieving an actual balanced budget. Get a clue.
on 07.15.10 @ 03:57 PM
Ah, Krakt, lots of things are unmeasurable, like which slit the photon went through in the famous two-slit experiment in physics. Doesn’t mean that slits are useless, or the the concept that the photon goes through a slit is unproven.
There are other forms of evidence in favor of the barrier that differ from the Glasgow’s unsuccessful and insensitive technique of seeking reductions in overall suicide rates. Interviewing the Golden Gate Bridge survivors is one: they favor barriers. Seiden’s technique is another. The bridge pair in DC is another. Of course you and Glasgow and others deny the power of that evidence: you seek perfection but never address your own extremity when you use absence of perfection to totally dismiss Seiden etc… total dismissal is too extreme. But we’ve been through this all before. Ho hum.
John Locke, actually, I’m pretty much against suicide in public places, for a variety of reasons. It is gross, and the suicide might hurt an innocent bystander; a driver seeing a jumper go over on the Cold Spring is definitely stressed while going 55mph and that is definitely dangerous.
Now there are people who carefully and legally wrap up their affairs, let people know, and commit suicide with a non-messy technique in a body bag in a coffin inside the privacy of their domicile. Darned rare, but in such a case, they are using their freedom in a manner that respects the other members of society. But the very rarity of that rational method tells me that suicide is more of a mental illness than a rational choice.
on 07.17.10 @ 11:01 AM
John you are right on target. But common sense rarely enters the minds of anyone who feels that gov should rule their lives.
on 07.18.10 @ 03:25 PM
sevendolphins, you posted the same talking points that you’ve posted a dozen times before, but didn’t answer my question.
Why should we believe the Caltrans interpretation of the peer reviewed literature over that of Professor Glasgow?
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