A man identified as Matt Aydelott fell to his death from the Cold Spring Arch Bridge on Highway 154 the morning of Monday, September 8. Earlier, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to a call of a man sitting on the railing of the bridge, but upon their arrival he had already fallen. It was determined that the 39-year-old Cuesta College teacher and San Luis Obispo resident’s death was a suicide.
Aydelott is the third person to jump from the bridge this year, and the 46th since the bridge was constructed in 1963. Caltrans released a Draft Environmental Impact Report in May that proposed increasing the bridge barrier’s height from the current 2 feet 7 inches to 6 feet, according to authorities. By creating a taller barrier, they argue, the number of suicides from the bridge would be reduced if not eliminated and it would also prevent public safety personnel from having to make dangerous recoveries in the rough terrain below the bridge.
The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments voted in August to hold another public hearing on the Caltrans proposal to install a barrier on the bridge. While the SBCAG board has previously given its approval to the project, they will once again hear testimony in an October 16 public hearing because of significant controversy raised by a group of citizens.
While plans have been in the works for years for a barrier on the bridge, opponents have cited recent letters from the California Transportation Commission to Caltrans to fuel their argument that funding is not there for the project, and even if it was, that the money could be better utilized elsewhere. The group, Friends of the Bridge, say the barrier won’t prevent suicides, but merely divert them to other locations. Caltrans, the Sheriff’s Department, and other groups have said the barrier would indeed be an effective life-saving measure.