Golden Gate Bridge to get ‘zipper lane’

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge is closed to vehicle traffic this weekend. Workers will be installing a moveable median barrier.

Officials say it will provide a safer and more efficient way of separating opposing lanes of traffic.

It’s taken on many nicknames over the years: suicide lane and death lane are just a couple.

“I just call it the scary lane (laughs). Pretty much everyone knows the middle lane or the scary lane, you know what you’re talking about. The lane where you’re right next to oncoming traffic,” Novato resident Alisha Ascencio said.

The lanes closest to the center divider have been nothing more than plastic pylons for decades. Since 1970, there here have been 128 head-on collisions on the bridge, resulting in 16 deaths.

98399622FEC3444C9CB8FD5FB17D9015But soon, 3,500 steel-clad concrete blocks attached together by steel pins will essentially eliminate head-ons on the Golden Gate Bridge. Workers applied reflective stickers on each of them. They’ll be placed on the bridge soon after the span closes to private vehicles on Saturday.

To reconfigure the bridge’s six lanes during rush-hour commutes, the 32-inch-tall and 1-foot-wide barrier will be moved using trucks.

Similar barriers are used in Honolulu’s Zipper Lane.

“In 1962 we started lane management here on the bridge and that was brand new. It was innovative across the country. So we’re excited to have another innovative step to have the narrowest median barrier ever right here on the Golden Gate Bridge,” Golden Gate Bridge spokesperson Priya Clemens said.

Yet despite being touted as the narrowest at 24 inches, the new median is still going to take six inches off each center lane. 9-and-half feet instead of ten.

“I mean it’s already kind of tight as it is, so to take six more inches off seems like a bit, but I think people will just have to slow down,” Santa Rosa resident Patricia Seeley said.

The two-day shut down will be the longest in the span’s history. Workers will use the time not only to install the concrete units, but to practice using the so-called zipper trucks, the machines that will move the median from one lane to the next, depending on the flow of traffic.

The closure will no doubt affect tourists. Many juggled their itinerary and drove to vista point today.

“My wife told me about it this morning. She had read about it in the paper so we made the journey out,” visitor Ron Keenan said.

The bridge is scheduled to re-open 4 a.m. Monday, but if the work gets done early, it could re-open sooner.

The $30 million barrier is the latest effort by officials trying to make the Golden Gate Bridge safer.

To shuttle people between San Francisco and Marin County, the Golden Gate Ferry is offering expanded service this weekend.

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