Golden Gate Bridge seeks suicide barrier engineers in 2016-17 budget

The Golden Gate Bridge will soon gain a new safety net to deter suicides — but first, the net needs engineers.

That’s why the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District’s latest budget for fiscal year 2016-17 includes funding for two new engineers, along with a bevy of other funding asks for The City’s iconic northern gateway and transit systems.

The project to construct a suicide net was initiated in 2006, according to the district. The net was proposed to prevent those drawn to the iconic bridge from dying by suicide.

Board directors highlighted the need for engineers to ensure timely delivery of the suicide net when discussing the district’s proposed $210 million operating budget Thursday with the district auditor and controller Joseph Wire.

“We have to make sure we have enough staff to ensure we’re in control of the barrier project,” said Dick Grosboll, the board’s president, to district staff.

Ewa Bauer, chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge, told Grosboll, “Knowing it takes time to find candidates and people, we need to be on this assignment as soon as possible.”

Different firms are bidding on construction for the suicide net. Still, Bauer said, “We need core people in the engineering department who lead.”

Bauer later told the San Francisco Examiner the new assistant and associate steel inspector positions may either participate in net construction or take over other projects to allow experienced Golden Gate district engineers to themselves guide the $75 million net construction.

The engineering department has previously had difficulty in finding new hires, particularly for four open positions: senior electrical engineer, civil engineer, steel inspector, and document and control assistant.

Bauer told the board, “I never lose my hope that we’ll find people.” But the bridge’s distance from BART, less competitive salaries and other factors have made finding new hires difficult.

The consideration of new engineers comes as the request for proposals from contractors on the Suicide Deterrent Net Construction Project encountered its second delay since February. The net is the first large scale horizontal net installation in the U.S., according to the district.

This means there are more complex and unexpected questions from potential project teams than most traditional projects, the district said. Building a new boat ramp, for instance, is rote.

The district’s budget also includes a number of capital projects, including replacing 70 Golden Gate Transit diesel buses with new hybrid buses for $57 million; building new gangways and piers in Sausalito, San Francisco and Larkspur ferry terminals for $19 million; and a Golden Gate Bridge wind retrofit for $8 million, among other projects.

The district’s budget is set for approval next month by its Board of Directors.

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