Work is underway to add a steel net to prevent people from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge over the entrance to San Francisco Bay in California.
The net will span 1.7 miles of roadway on each side. It will be located 20 feet down from the sidewalk and extend 20 feet out, over the water. The suicide barrier will be built over several years, with an expected completion date in 2021.
In May 2017, contractors began installing temporary fencing along the bridge approaches and around the tower legs. They also began creating detailed measurements for use in manufacturing the stainless steel net.
Bridge officials say that nearly 1,700 people have fallen to their deaths since the landmark opened in 1937, including 14 to date in 2018.
The bridge is one of the world’s top destinations for suicides, news reports quote Denis Mulligan, general manager of the bridge district, as saying. Mental health experts hope that when the nets are completed in 2021, the deaths will stop.
Oakland companies Shimmick Construction Co. and Danny’s Construction Co. won the contract to design and build the net. The $211 million price tag is about three times what the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District Board of Directors proposed when it put the project out for bid in 2014.
New reports say that the board did not quite grasp the complexity of the design and engineering, or the challenge of bringing heavy equipment into a difficult environment 250 feet above the water. Project funding was secured from federal, state and regional sources, with large shares coming from Caltrans, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and the bridge district.
The net will be made of 385,000 square feet of marine-grade stainless steel that will be hung on steel cantilever brackets. The brackets, painted the same distinctive "international orange" as the span and towers, will be 50 feet apart. The mesh will be gray to match the color of the frequent fog and the color of the water below.
Construction Safety Net
As the bridge was being built, a safety net was suspended along the entire length of the span from pylon to pylon. The $130,000 net was made of manila rope, 3/8 inches in diameter and forming 6 inches of square mesh. It extended 10 feet outside the trusses on both sides.
The net saved 19 men who fell into it, becoming members of what was informally known as the “Halfway-to-Hell Club.”
Even so, deaths occurred during bridge construction. The first was Kermit Moore, who fell on Oct. 21, 1936. And on Feb. 17, 1937, 12 men fell to the water after a section of scaffold tore through the safety net. Two survived the fall.
More recent ideas for a suicide barrier date back to the 1950s, when officials considered stringing barbed wire above the rail. In the 1970s and ’80s, the bridge district studied other proposals, mostly railings or fencing with horizontal wires that become slack and harder to maneuver as people climb them.