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SAN FRANCISCO – The Golden Gate Bridge reopened to traffic Sunday night following a weekend closure to install a safety barrier designed to reduce dangers of head-on crashes.
The bridge reopened at 9:30 p.m., more than six hours ahead of schedule, said Priya Clemens, a spokeswoman for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.
For the longest period in its nearly 80-year history, the bridge was closed to all but pedestrians, cyclists and buses to install the barriers on the 1.7-mile-long bridge.
Previously, only yellow plastic tubes offered protection from opposing traffic.
Since 1970, there here have been 128 head-on collisions on the bridge, resulting in 16 deaths, according to Clemens.
A survivor of a 2008 head-on crash on the bridge spoke earlier Sunday from her wheelchair to help inaugurate the new barrier, made of steel-clad concrete blocks that can move across the span's six lanes to accommodate traffic demands.
Dr. Grace Dammann, who pushed for a safer median barrier since becoming paralyzed from the crash, said she decided to drive in the "suicide lane" because she and her daughter were running late. Brian Clark, who was driving in the opposite direction, had just learned his father had terminal cancer.
"He passed out at the wheel, crossed over and hit my car," Dammann recalled.
She said she and Clark became friends as they urged the district to approve the $30 million barrier.
"I am so grateful," said Dammann, who came to the ribbon-cutting ceremony with Clark. "Brian and I thank you.
The suspension bridge opened in 1937, and previously has closed only for shorter periods, including for celebrations and work projects.