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Golden Gate ‘Suicide Net’ Contract Awarded

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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After years of discussion, the contract for a suicide-deterrent net to be added to San Francisco’s landmark Golden Gate Bridge has been awarded, and construction is set to begin in 2017.

The Oakland, CA-based Shimmick/Danny’s Joint Venture was awarded the contract Friday (Dec. 16) by the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. The winning bid for the project was $142 million, far higher than the $84 million the District had originally budgeted.

Golden Gate suicide deterrent rendering
Renderings: Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District

The Oakland, CA-based Shimmick/Danny’s Joint Venture was awarded the contract for the construction of the long-discussed Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier on Friday (Dec. 16).

Entities including the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Caltrans stepped in to help with the $204 million that is now budgeted for the project, including contingency funds.

Unexpectedly High Bids

Bids for the contract were first taken in the fall of 2015; at the time, the District expected the job to cost $76 million, and budgeted $84 million including contingency funds. Earlier this year, it was reported that the Shimmick/Danny’s bid, the lowest, came in at nearly twice the original estimate. The second highest, from Pennsylvania-based American Bridge Co., was $174 million.

The bid deadline had been extended in February due to questions from the bidders and changes in the contract specifications. Notably, the steel the netting is to be made of was changed, from a type of steel that could not be manufactured in the United States, and which was relatively untested in the corrosive saltwater environment surrounding the bridge, to a marine-grade stainless steel that, per the contract, must be made in the U.S.A.

Bid Protest

The most recent wrinkle in the process came just earlier this month, when American Bridge filed a protest, alleging that Shimmick/Danny’s had failed to substantiate some of its claims of experience in its bid, and had not complied with nondisclosure agreements in the bidding process.

Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier rendering

The netting will be placed about 20 feet below the sidewalk deck of the bridge, extending about 23 feet out from the side of the span, supported by eight-by-eight-inch horizontal supports.

The protest, had it been upheld by the District, could have struck a serious blow to the project, as the District may have chosen to reject all bids due to the high price of the second-lowest bid. American Bridge opted to withdraw its protest, citing concerns that the entire project might be scrapped.

“As it appears now, if American Bridge’s protest was upheld, the current funding is inadequate for the district to award the project to the responsive bidder and, as quoted by a district official [Thursday] morning, would result in a continued delay,” Brian Petersen, the company’s vice president, wrote in a statement reported by the San Francisco Examiner.

Decades in the Making

The Golden Gate Bridge, built in 1937, is the second-most popular site in the world for suicides; more than 1,600 people are estimated to have jumped to their death from the span over its lifetime. A suicide deterrent has been discussed since at least the 1950s, but was never pursued seriously until recently, partly due to concerns over changing the landmark bridge’s appearance.

The suicide deterrent project was first undertaken in 2006, with about nine years spent on design, planning and funding work. With the bidding process over, work on the net is expected to begin in early 2017 and be complete in 2021.

The netting will be placed about 20 feet below the sidewalk deck of the bridge, extending about 23 feet out from the side of the span, supported by eight-by-eight-inch horizontal supports.

As designed, the system is seen as a deterrent to potential jumpers; the netting would collapse slightly around a jumper, making it difficult to escape, and someone who leapt from the bridge into the net would likely sustain some injuries.

The San Francisco Mercury-News reports that a similar net was put in place on a bridge in Bern, Switzerland, in 2005, and no suicide attempts have been reported on that bridge since.

   

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

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