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Golden Gate Suicide Net Bids Come in High

Monday, July 18, 2016

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Officials say plans for a “suicide barrier” on the Golden Gate Bridge will go on, but the process may have hit a snag when the lowest bids for its construction came in at nearly twice the expected cost.

Bridge officials announced last fall that they would be taking bids for the installation of a stainless steel net under the sidewalk level of the San Francisco bridge, with the intention of preventing and deterring suicide attempts. The Golden Gate is the second most popular bridge in the world for suicidal jumpers; more than 1,400 people have reportedly jumped from the bridge since its opening nearly 90 years ago.

Estimate Vs. Bids

But, while consultants advised the Golden Gate Transportation District that the project would cost around $76 million, and that’s the amount the district was working to finance for the construction, the San Jose Mercury-News reported last week that the lowest bid came in at $142 million—a whopping $66 million more than anticipated.

Golden Gate suicide barrier artist's rendering
Images: Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transporation

Officials took bids for the installation of a stainless steel net under the sidewalk level of the San Francisco bridge, with the intention of preventing and deterring suicide attempts. (Images are artist's renderings.)

The lowest bid for the job reportedly came from an Oakland-based joint venture between firms called Shimmick and Danny’s. The second-lowest, at $174 million, came from American Bridge Co., headquartered near Pittsburgh.

The nets are proposed to be 20 feet wide and have been under discussion for nearly 10 years now. Funds for the project can’t be taken from bridge tolls, according to the district; the $76 million financing plan includes support from Caltrans, the federal Surface Transportation Program, the California Mental Health Service Act Funds and district reserves.

Changes to Steel Specifications

In February, the district extended the bid deadline for the project after updating technical specifications based on bidders’ questions. Notably, the district changed the specified type of steel to be used for the netting.

Golden Gate artist rendering

The Golden Gate District has specified that the net be constructed of American-made, marine-grade stainless steel.

“The original specifications called for a special type of steel that cannot be manufactured in America in sufficient quantities and has not been extensively tested in salt-water corrosive environments, such as the one that exists at the Golden Gate Bridge,” officials noted in a statement. “The District has chosen an alternative: a high quality, marine-grade stainless steel which can be fully manufactured in America.”

The new specification calls for the steel used in making the net to be made in America, to conform with federal guidelines and “continue our tradition of using American-made steel.”

Analyzing the Bids

Bridge officials have promised to look at the bids in relation to the original estimates and determine what might account for the discrepancy.

"Nobody has done this before," chief engineer Ewa Bauer told the Mercury-News. "The main thing right now is to look inside those submitted bids to see how the contractors see the job."

If district officials can’t come up with a way to shave money off the bids, the project may be delayed until more funding is found.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Bidding; Bridges; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Funding; Government contracts; Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Stainless steel

Comment from Joe McGreal, (7/18/2016, 12:05 PM)

Having a net seems reasonable, albeit the cost is high. What stops the jumper from hitting net, getting up and then jumping off the net?

Comment from Jon Edwards, (7/19/2016, 1:28 AM)

Put up an 6' galvanized chain link fence, powder coated orange, with 3 strands of barb wire at the top attached to the top of the existing rail for about $2 million. For those offended by the aesthetics, ask if they'd like to provide $140 million more for the net/trampoline.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (7/19/2016, 8:28 AM)

I don't see this net design as much of a deterrent to jumpers who could (as noted) rejump off the net (no, saggy net doesn't deter significantly) or just climb down the lattice and walk out on one of the net outriggers. Even a 6' high fence with barbed wire isn't much of a deterrent for someone with a jacket to throw over the barbed wire. How about a rail/picket "tunnel" for the pedestrians? Eliminates climbing access entirely, should allow everyone to still see through the pickets.

Comment from Joe McGreal, (7/19/2016, 11:11 AM)

If the cost is $174M and the average yearly jump rate is 15.5 people, over the next 30 years this would costs the taxpayer $500K per jumper. Perhaps the walking enclosure is best.

Comment from Jason Smiley, (9/3/2017, 3:52 PM)

A walkway"tunnel" with a view? Sounds like cheapest and best way

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