Officials said the price of the Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier, previously estimated at $76 million, could rise to $222 million due to continued construction delays.
The Board of Directors of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation District voted unanimously Friday to approve an $8 million increase for the project, raising expenditures from $206.6 million to $214.9 million.
Bridge area officials say the cost increases are caused by construction delays by the contractor — a joint venture between Shemec Construction and Danny Construction — that require more funding to oversee staff and project consultants.
“Unfortunately, that’s what it is now, dealing with contractors and delays that have occurred,” board member Dick Grosbull said during this week’s meeting.
Ewa Power-Forbush, the county’s chief engineer, said another $7 million may be needed before the end of next year to complete the project due to “ongoing” problems with regulating contractors’ work.
Chimec Construction spokesman Tonya Sandman declined to comment on Friday.
“We are unable to provide any information about the project as per our contract and company policy,” she said.
Danny Construction could not be reached for comment.
The project, whose construction began in 2018, involves building a mesh made of 4 mm stainless steel ropes on either side of the two-mile-long bridge. The net will sit 20 feet below deck and extend 20 feet outward.
The network aims to deter people from jumping over the sprawl in the first place and catch anyone who does. Additionally, the network requires the area to reconfigure maintenance platforms known as commuters that move along the underside of the bridge.
The network was originally scheduled to be completed in January 2021, and the network is now expected to be completed in December 2023 along the way, according to district employees. The net positions near the north and south towers are expected to be completed in 2025 due to traveler reconfiguration.
The entire project, including the Traveler upgrades, is not expected to be completed until January 2026 – nearly two years behind the latest estimate and four years behind the original schedule.
About 900 linear feet of grid have been installed so far on both sides of the bridge. Power-Forbusch said crews are installing an additional 100 feet each week.
Kimberly Renee Gamboa told the board that she annually returned to the bridge this week to celebrate the ninth anniversary when her son, 18-year-old Kyle Gamboa, jumped to his death. When she reached light center number 77 – the place where her son had jumped – and looked over the railing, she was overwhelmed with emotion to see the net below.
“It was unexpected because I didn’t think the network would be in place until next year,” she told the board on Friday. “I can’t describe the feelings I had and still feel seeing a net where Cale jumped – all possibilities to save Cale if the net was there when he jumped and the future possibilities of the life that would be saved.”
About 1,800 people have died because of the bridge since it opened in 1937. About 30 people jump every year.
Paul Mueller, president of Bridge Rail, a nonprofit suicide prevention organization, said advocates for the barrier, including families who have lost loved ones to suicide, have been disappointed by the delays.
“Any delay costs lives,” Mueller said.
Bridge area board members questioned staff about whether further delays and increased cost were expected.
“Is there an end to budget increases for suicide deterrence?” said board member Barbara Bahri. “I know we were hoping 2024 would bring us something we could say, yeah, we’re done, and now I see it’s moved two years later.
“I know we won’t stop, that’s not my point,” she continued. “My point is just I think there’s a part of me that doesn’t understand how the contractors can keep coming back and saying, ‘Oh my God, not now, not now.'”In June 2021, the district authorized up to $23 million in additional budget increases for the project. At that time, the project cost was estimated at $196.4 million. With Friday’s vote, about $16 million of the $23 million cap has been allocated.
The county uses its capital reserve funds, which are raised largely from bridge toll revenue, to pay for increases. The reserves are used as supplemental financing as well as grants for projects such as bridge seismic upgrades, purchase of new buses and ferries and improvement of other area facilities such as bus stations. The district is seeking to offset some of the additional costs from contractors.
Dennis Mulligan, the area’s general manager, said the problems with the contractor resulted in part from the fact that Shimek’s ownership had changed hands three times since the project began. The company is currently owned by Oroco Capital, a Massachusetts private equity firm.
“The new ownership is different, but the good news is that they are building the network,” Mulligan told the board.
The Marine Corps 24/7 Suicide and Crisis Prevention Hotline at 1100-415499.