Contractors working on the Golden Gate Bridge Physical Suicide Deterrent and Wind Retrofit project in San Francisco recently reached a milestone with the completion of barriers along the full 1.7-mile span, according to the owner, the Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District. Work on the remaining parts of the project is expected to complete in 2027.

Most of the barrier consists of a marine-grade steel net 20 ft below and 20 ft out from either side of the bridge. Some portions instead have vertical fencing or a combination of both due to design and construction factors, according to the bridge district. 

The scope of work also includes the replacement of a “traveler” system under the bridge used for maintenance access, plus construction of wind retrofits. Additional under-bridge netting will be installed to replace fencing once work on the traveler system is finished, as that work requires access unobstructed by the net, according to the bridge district. Shimmick/Danny’s Joint Venture, a partnership of Construction Co. Inc. and Danny’s Construction Co. LLC, is the prime contractor.

Work was originally planned to be completed in 2021, but the project has faced various delays and overruns. The contract was originally worth $142 million when the bridge district awarded it to Shimmick/Danny’s in 2017. Now the bridge district says the total project cost is about $224 million, and the contractor has put the price at $398 million. 

Those costs and the alleged causes behind them are currently the subject of litigation between the bridge district and contractors. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2021 by steel supplier Vigor Works LLC against Shimmick/Danny’s. The companies settled last year, but the case between the bridge district and contractor is ongoing. This month, attorneys told a state judge in San Francisco that they have mediation scheduled for Feb. 21. Otherwise, a trial date has been set for June. 

Work has continued despite the difficulties and disagreement, the barrier seems to already be having an impact. According to the bridge district, the net “serves as a symbol of care and hope to despondent individuals.” There were 14 confirmed suicides at the bridge last year, compared to an average of 30 per year over the past two decades. 

“We have never had a more important project and we are honored to have had the opportunity to work on the Golden Gate Bridge,” Steve Richards, CEO of Shimmick, said in a statement to ENR last month. 

The net is also designed to be painful to jump onto as an additional deterrent, and anyone jumping on to it may be seriously injured. The bridge district has been working with local first responders on net rescues. Bridge district officials say they have already performed several net rescues, and the bridge district is building a replica net at a firefighter training facility in Mill Valley, Calif., to help first responders prepare for future rescues.

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