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Terrorism fears will close half of Golden Gate Bridge for marathon

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Car attacks in Europe worry bridge honchos

An American flag flapping near the northbound lanes of the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo via Wikicommons

In a unanimous decision, the Golden Gate Bridge’s Board of Directors voted on Friday to close the northbound lanes of the span from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. during the San Francisco Marathon July 23 for fear of terrorism.

While it’ll be a relatively brief closure, traffic crossings on the bridge are highly rare, with the board calling its own move an “unprecedented decision” in a Friday press release:

Northbound traffic lanes will be closed [...] as 15,000 runners are crossing the Bridge roadway. Southbound lanes will continue to flow as usual. Runners are protected from southbound vehicles by the steel and concrete moveable [sic] median barrier.

Golden Gate Transit vehicles will be escorted northbound across the Bridge, to permit public transit access. Emergency vehicles will also be escorted northbound, as needed. Patrol cars will also travel alongside the runners. Private vehicles, shuttles, and tour buses will not be permitted to cross northbound.

The district estimates that about 4,500 vehicles would normally cross the Golden Gate during that three hour span. But officials deemed the closure necessary for security reasons.

Bridge Captain Lisa Locati—a bridge captain “oversees the activities of the toll office and roadway operations”—spelled out the worries in a letter to the board:

The decision to allow events to take place on the Bridge roadway always has been of concern. Each year during the permit process, safety concerns such as impaired and/or distracted drivers are contemplated, discussed and debated.

Unfortunately, today, those discussions and that debate also must include consideration of the recent tragedies brought on by those intentionally driving vehicles into crowds of pedestrians at notable locations, particularly in areas where there are large concentrations of people.

Terrorist attacks employing moving vehicles occurred twice in London in June, once on London Bridge and once near a mosque in Finsbury Park. A similar attack happened near Westminster Palace in March, and in Stockholm, Sweden in April.

The San Francisco Marathon, now in its 40th year, begins and ends at the Ferry Building, running a full 26-mile plus loop around the perimeter of the city beginning at 5:30 a.m., and is a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon and Olympic Trials.

The marathon site estimates 27,000 runners this year, between the full marathon and the accompanying half marathons.

SF Marathon