Construction of a controversial suicide barrier on Cold Spring Bridge must be halted for the time being, Judge Thomas Anderle ruled in Santa Barbara Superior Court on Tuesday. The ruling — which was in response to a request from the Friends of the Bridge group that the project be stopped — came a little more than a month after he said that an Environmental Impact Report hadn’t been adequately circulated in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Caltrans had asked that drilling holes in the bridge be allowed to continue, and that it be allowed to build panels off-site while the EIR was circulated. But the court ruled it would “defeat CEQA’s interactive process to allow Caltrans to remain inalterably committed to the grid/mesh alternative — and to proceed with its construction by drilling holes in the bridge and fabricating its panels — prior to its proper compliance with CEQA.”
And so the project stops. Caltrans spokesperson Jim Shivers said the agency will follow the court’s direction, and that Caltrans remains “firmly committed to this project.” He said Caltrans officials don’t know what the decision means for the project in terms of costs or other impacts, such as the contractor’s schedule or the construction that has already been done. While Friends attorney Marc Chytilo said he expects the orange fencing surrounding the project to be taken down, Shivers said he didn’t know the status of the fencing and that it wasn’t talked about in court.
Said Chytilo in a statement, “Friends is hopeful that the recirculation process will yield a better Project that addresses the safety concerns on Cold Spring Canyon Bridge, while also protecting the Bridge’s historic and aesthetic integrity.”