By Emmett Berg
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A plan decades in the making to put an end to head-on collisions on the Golden Gate Bridge reaches fruition this weekend with the installation of a moveable roadway median, a project requiring a 52-hour closure, a bridge official said on Friday.
Starting at midnight, crews will begin stringing together the median, involving 3,500 individual pieces of concrete, along the length of the 1.7-mile span. The closure is the longest since the bridge opened to traffic in 1937.
By Monday at 4 a.m. local time when the bridge re-opens, barriers a foot wide and 32 inches tall will separate traffic along the 1.7-mile span.
Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District spokeswoman Priya Clemens said the existing pylons, sunk almost six inches into the roadway, will have to be removed and the resulting holes patched ahead of installing the barrier, which will take up six inches from each direction of traffic.
The six lanes of traffic over the bridge, directionally separated by intermittent plastic pylons, have 128 times since 1970 been the scene of head-on collisions, 16 of them fatal, according to the Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District.
"When I came in on Monday and saw my chief engineer whistling in the hallway, I knew it was going to be a good week,” Clemens said. “We have wanted to do this for years, for decades really. And we’ve been working on it for years.”
Clemens said the long wait was due both to developing the funds for the $30 million project and viable technology to accomplish the task of the pylons, which workers have long moved each day to account for rush hour traffic to and from San Francisco from Marin County.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Grant McCool)