The Golden Gate Bridge suicide net is estimated to cost more than $200 million. (Cindy Chew/2010 S.F. Examiner)

MTC helps close $120 million funding gap for Golden Gate Bridge suicide net

Cost projections for a long-proposed suicide net on the Golden Gate Bridge more than doubled in September, leaving bridge officials scrambling to raise an additional $120 million.

Now the Metropolitan Transportation Commission may be able to close $40 million of that funding gap, and plans to hold a hearing to address the need next Wednesday.

“This is the first action by any agency to close the gap,” said Denis Mulligan, executive director of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.

And that’s on top of another $27 million the MTC pledged to what is officially called Golden Gate Bridge Physical Suicide Deterrent System Project, according to MTC officials. The bridge district had amassed about $84 million for the original estimated construction contract, as well as contingency funds and engineering costs.

The net was initially estimated to cost $75 million, plus an additional $10 million for contingency funding.

Recent bids, however, submitted by Shimmick Construction Company, Inc./Danny’s Construction Company LLC pegged the project at $142 million, and American Bridge Company pegged its bid to build the project as $174.4 million.

The new bids, as well as the need for contingency funding and engineering, brought the new cost estimate of the net to $204 million, according to MTC.

In late September the Golden Gate Bridge district Board of Directors voted to extend the bidding project by 90 days to find more funding.

Wednesday’s MTC Programming & Allocations Committee public hearing will include Supervisor Scott Wiener, the committee’s chair, as well as Supervisor David Campos, who also serves on the commision. Final action to approve the funds is expected in December.

The additional $40 million is “a good example of creative bureaucracy,” said John Goodwin, an MTC spokesperson.

The MTC can’t directly give the $40 million it has in available state funds to the Golden Gate Bridge district, because the district is not a state agency.

So it’s moving $40 million to a pot of funding set aside to purchase BART train cars, and moving $40 million from that same BART funding pot –– which Goodwin said is “flexible” –– to the Golden Gate Bridge district.

“This is very complex stuff,” Goodwin said, adding, “Those are flexible regional funds, they can be moved around for a lot of different things.”

That still leaves the Golden Gate Bridge district about $80 million shy of the new needed funding for the suicide deterrent project, but Mulligan said he’s confident the district will take a “revised funding plan” to the Golden Gate Bridge district Board of Directors (which Wiener also sits on) on Dec. 16.

“We’re optimistic,” Mulligan said.

The suicide net project was initiated in 2006, according to the district.

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