Golden Gate Bridge Suicide Net Delayed Two Years

The Bridge Rail Foundation estimates that the delay could result in 60 preventable deaths.

The completion of a suicide deterrent net beneath the Golden Gate Bridge is likely two years behind schedule, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District said Thursday.

Completion of the $211 million project is now expected in 2023, according to the district.

“We are frustrated by the delay in completing the Suicide Deterrent System,” the district’s General Manager Denis Mulligan said in a news release. “The Bridge District continues to work with the contractor to advance the project as quickly as possible. In the meantime, our Bridge Patrol Officers continue to monitor the sidewalks and intervene when someone attempts to harm themselves.”

District officials said there are multiple reasons for the two-year delay. The low-bid contract was awarded to Oakland-based Shimmick Construction in a joint venture with Danny’s Construction Company of San Francisco. Then Los Angeles-based AECOM purchased Shimmick Construction during the first year of the contract, according to the district. The “corporate distraction” delayed the start of the project and impacted other Shimmick, now AECOM, projects as well, district officials said.

AECOM chairman and CEO Michael Burke publicly stated that “execution challenges” in its construction unit were “unavoidable and unacceptable,” according to the district. Other reasons for the delay are a slow mobilization of work platforms needed to access work locations on the bridge and the contractor’s underestimation of the rate at which various work activities can progress.

The district said the contractor is bringing additional workers to the job and their work is moving faster as they gain on-the-job knowledge. The suicide deterrent net consists of marine grade stainless steel netting attached to structural steel net supports placed 20 feet below the sidewalks on the bridge. The netting extends 20 feet out over the water.

Elements of the project are fabricated in Oregon, Illinois, Missouri, Alabama and Connecticut, and as of Nov. 29, approximately 80 percent of the steel components have been completed. They include 105,000 square feet of approximately 385,000 square feet of steel netting needed, 309 of 369 net supports and all of the wind retrofit elements that include new bridge railing and wind fairings needed to install the netting, according to the district.

The installation of 102 of 369 net supports has been completed, 1,488 of 4,100 linear feet of sidewalk railing has been removed and 1,325 linear feet of new sidewalks have been installed as of Nov. 29.

The contractor is working double shifts day and night five days a week to construct the project from temporary work access platforms installed under and on the sides of the bridge, district officials said.

Heavy equipment is brought to the job site during night shifts only, and one lane in one direction and two lanes in the other direction are open for night traffic on the bridge. The district also started special event ferry service between the Larkspur Ferry Terminal and the Chase Center in San Francisco to provide an alternate mode of travel.

The Bridge Rail Foundation in Sausalito, a non-profit organization originally formed to end suicides on the bridge, said an average of 30 people a year kill themselves by jumping from the bridge, and 1,700 people have died by suicide there since 1937.

“This delay (in construction) could result in 60 more preventable deaths,” the foundation said on Facebook. “The anger this is likely to spur among suicide prevention advocates is justified and substantial.”

The foundation called for the completion of the net project as
promised. The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District said a 1978 study of the Golden Gate Bridge showed 90 percent of people who were stopped from jumping did not die later by suicide or any other violent means.

By James Lanaras, BCN

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