Since the bridge opening in 1937, about 1,700 people have attempted a suicide mission from the span, 14 of them during 2018. The decision was made after years of debate about how the net barrier would influence the image of the historic bridge. The construction will last approximately 2,5 years with crews working at night to build the net beneath the Art Deco span.
The idea for a suicide barrier is not new. In the 1950s, authorities considered stringing barbed wire above the rail while in the 1970s and 1980s the district of the bridge examined different kind of solutions (for example a fence installation) to prevent people from jumping.
The cost of the barrier is three times more than what the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District Board of Directors anticipated when the project was first conceived in 2014. Back then, the board had not realized the complexity of the project and the challenge to lift such equipment 250ft. above the ground. In order to cope with this problem, the transportation district merged together funds from federal, state and regional sources, with large shares coming from Caltrans, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the bridge district itself. Oakland companies Shimmick Construction Co. and Danny’s Construction Co. won the contract to design and build the net.
The barrier will be comprised of 385,000 square ft. of marine-grade stainless steel that will be hung 20 ft. below the bridge’s public walkway on steel cantilever brackets. The brackets will have the same color as the span and the towers and will be spaced 50 ft. apart. The mesh will be grey, matching the atmosphere created by fog that appears frequently in the bridge.
Denis Mulligan, general manager of the bridge district states: “Our board tends to reflect society’s values and the broader conversation about suicide. With suicide rates climbing around the country, people now see the need for a new form of intervention — beyond the security staff that patrols the bridge looking for lost souls.”
While some doubt the usefulness of the net by implying that those who want to commit suicide will find a way to do so, studies from Harvard University and UC Berkeley rebut that argument, showing that 9 out of 10 people who are stopped from committing suicide do not kill themselves at a later date.