Golden Gate Suicide Barrier Taking Shape
Recently, Golden Gate Bridge district officials displayed a 300-foot mock-up of what will be the bridge’s new “Suicide Barrier.”
The mock-up was assembled in a Richmond, California-based construction yard where workers are currently learning how to fasten struts and tension cables before building the actual net 250 feet above the ocean’s current.
In December 2016, Shimmick/Danny’s Joint Venture (Oakland, California) was awarded the contract for the long-planned suicide-deterrent net project by the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District for $142 million. According to contract documents, the general contractor subcontracted coating work to F.D. Thomas, which was acquired by ASRC Industrial.
The original estimate for the job was $76 million, but during the bidding process, a low bid came in at nearly twice that, owing in part to changes made to the contract after the initial cost estimate was made. The Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District said at the time that the original specification called for a type of steel only manufactured overseas; the spec was changed after discussions with the contractors to call for American-made stainless steel of a grade sufficient to stand up to the salt-spray environment around the bridge.
The project officially kicked off in April 2017 with a ceremony commemorating the decades of community discussions and efforts to build a barrier worthy of stopping potential jumpers on the landmark’s span.
The following year, in March, an announcement was made that work would finally begin, having fabrication of the stainless-steel netting and structural pieces starting offsite in May.
The net will consist of steel wires, about 5/32-inch thick, fastened to 8-inch-by-8-inch horizontal steel supports that will be cantilevered out from under the bridge. Plans include situating the net 20 feet down and 20 feet out from the deck, which stems from the idea that a fall from that height will deter potential jumpers, as jumpers would likely sustain non-fatal injuries on impact with the net. Fines will likely be instituted as well, in order to discourage recreational jumping.
While the cavalier brackets are slated to be coated with the same famous bridge color, “International Orange,” the net is to be coated gray, in order to blend with the surrounding fog and water below.
First installations of the suicide barrier on the bridge were reported by local San Francisco media in August. And by February of this year, four new metal protrusions could be seen along the western and eastern flanks of the Golden Gate Bridge, marking visual progress on the suicide barrier that is being installed.
According to the Marin Independent Journal, installing the support beams and netting is promised to be a $190 million effort; another $19 million is to be spent on a retrofitting the bridge to account for wind. Though the structure can withstand up to 70-mph winds from the west, the addition of the barrier would alter this, noted Ewa Bauer Furbush, chief engineer for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.
Piece by piece, the net is coming together — a coarse web of steel that will dangle over the side of the Golden Gate Bridge, catching lost and disconsolate souls. Read more >>> https://t.co/3hGPMKO0uK pic.twitter.com/HHJgAkQWBv— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) May 16, 2019
To address the issue, steel wind fairings were slated to be installed on the western side of the bridge, and railing that runs along the sidewalk is to be replaced with thinner pickets to allow for easier wind movement.
Other work includes the replacement of the bridge’s travelers, which run from the bridge’s sides to its underside to allow for maintenance work, with smaller options, and the installation of new railings to allow the travelers to move along the bridge.
What’s Happening Now
As workers are continuously educated on the build and installment precautions of the suicide barriers at the Richmond-based yard, the city has begun assembling the first parts onto the bridge during the evening hours.
Work crews have been closing a single lane of traffic so that cranes are able to lift and place large steel pieces over the side of the deck. In total, the suicide barrier will be composed of 385,000 square feet of marine-grade stainless steel with brackets spaced 50 feet apart from one another. The condition of the barrier will be monitored for the next five years. Maintenance costs are estimated to total $4 million annually.
Funding for the project totals: $74 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, $70 million from Caltrans, $60 million from Golden Gate Bridge District revenue and $7 million from the state.