Contractors work on $211 million Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier steel net

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Golden Gate bridge

AECOM-owned Shimmick Construction Co. and Danny’s Construction Co. are working on a $211 million steel net suicide barrier at the Golden Gate Bridge.

The 380,000 sq. ft. barrier is set to be completed in January 2021.

“This is the largest suicide deterrent net installation in the world, especially in the country,” Ewa Bauer Furbush, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District’s chief engineer, told the Marin Independent Journal. “It is a technically complex project that requires a lot of effort from all vendors of the project team that are involved in bringing this to completion.”

The suicide net, which will be located 20 feet below the top deck on each side of the bridge and extend 20 feet out, has been designed to resolve the suicide problem since the bridge opened in 1937.

Bridge patrol officers encounter jumpers at least once every other day — if not every day — said bridge manager Steven Miller. Overall, about 1,700 people have died by plunging from the bridge since it opened — patrol officers are able to catch most of the suicide attempts before they succeed.

“The suicides take a toll on everyone here, the patrol officers especially,” Miller said. “So everyone here is looking forward to a day when we don’t have to be involved in that tragedy of suicide. Everyone here is happy to see it coming and looking forward to it.

“Quite frankly, in my mind, we can’t build it fast enough,” Miller said.

The barrier’s net is made of metal, so the fall will result in injury to the person attempting to jump. The net won’t prevent people from jumping from the barrier, but it will give more time for patrol officers to intervene.

Along with the barrier, bridge authorities have budgeted $19 million for a wind retrofit.

While the bridge can withstand sustained winds of up to 70 mph from the west, the barrier would change this, said bridge district chief engineer Bauer Furbush.

“We cannot hang the net of the west side of the bridge until the main span of the bridge is retrofitted for high wind,” she said.

The district will be installing steel wind fairings on the outside western side of the bridge near the sidewalks. In addition, the railing along the sidewalk will be replaced with thinner pickets to allow more area for wind to pass through, Bauer Furbush said.

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