Golden Gate Bridge to get net to catch suicides

The skyline of San Francisco rises behind the fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands in Sausalito, California September 24, 2008. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The California panel that oversees the Golden Gate Bridge voted on Friday to install netting to catch would-be suicides throwing themselves off the famous span.

The 4,200-foot-long (1,280-meter-long) suspension bridge, which crosses the entrance to San Francisco Bay, is a tourist magnet that also draws people trying to end their lives.

There were 39 confirmed suicides from the bridge in 2007, with seven unconfirmed cases, and 19 confirmed so far this year, bridge officials said.

The netting would be set 20 feet below the sidewalk and extend out 20 feet from the bridge. Officials estimate the barrier will cost $40 million to $50 million.

A suicide barrier beneath the link between San Francisco and Marin County has been debated since the 1970s, said Mary Currie, a spokesperson for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.

Building the barrier will take several years, and the project needs additional environmental study, she said.

Reporting by Gabriel Madway; Editing by Xavier Briand