Golden Gate Bridge Officials Ask for More Time to Fund Suicide Barrier

Callbox for crisis counseling on Golden Gate Bridge. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District wants more time to come up with the funding for a long-discussed suicide prevention barrier.

The district's board of directors unanimously voted Friday to let its staff request a 90-day extension from the two firms that offered bids on the steel net that would be installed along the bridge.

Oakland-based Shimmick/Danny’s Joint Venture bid $142 million and American Bridge Company of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, bid $174 million back in July. Both bids were significantly larger than the $76 million the bridge district had set aside for the project in 2014.

Those bids expire on Oct. 10, but the bridge district is asking the companies to extend the deadline until Jan. 9, 2017.

"Right now, we need more time," bridge district spokeswoman Priya Clemens said. "We need time to look at the bids, and we need time to potentially find more funding to award one of these bids."

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This is the latest delay in a process that has seen many since it began in 2005. Several of the previous delays were also funding-related, with the board initially hesitant to use toll funds to pay for the project and some board members concerned over whether the net would be an effective deterrent. Clemens says the bridge district expects a six-to-12 month delay to the four-year project, pushing completion of the net to 2021.

The project got a boost in 2012 when a new law made a broader range of federal funding available for safety barriers and nets on bridges, and Clemens says the bridge district will look into both state and federal funding options to close the money gap. The current $76 million earmarked for the net includes $27 million from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, $22 million from Caltrans, $20 million from the bridge district and $7 million from state Mental Health Services Act funds.

Clemens said that despite the delays, the board is still committed to getting the net installed.

"The extra costs are certainly a concern for board members, but it has not deterred their desire to end the scourge of suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge," she said.

Nearly 500 people have committed suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge since 2000, including 22 this year through Aug. 22, according to the bridge district.