Plans for GG Bridge tours hit roadblock 

Golden Gate Bridge fans hoping to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the historic span won’t receive that thrill anytime soon—and likely ever.

In November, the Golden Gate Bridge District issued request for proposals to private companies interested in providing an “interactive experience” on the span, with early ideas including guided catwalk climbs and tours of the bridge’s interior. Slated to start in 2013, and modeled after a similar program on the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia, the program was expected to generate $9 million annually for the struggling bridge district, which is facing a five-year projected shortfall of $132 million.

However, after receiving very extensive project proposals from a series of companies, and with major retrofitting work scheduled for the span during the next three to four years, the bridge district has decided to temporarily shelve its plans for interactive tourism experiences. The planned retrofitting work would entail sidewalk closures, complete replacement of the roadway deck, and complicated overhead cable rehabilitation—not exactly pleasant conditions for behind-the-scene visitors to the bridge.

“Our highest priority and greatest responsibility is to maintain the structural integrity of the bridge,” said bridge district general manager Celia Kupersmith. “We cannot compromise the completion of the seismic retrofit and main cable restoration with an additional project on the bridge structure at the same time.”

While the bridge’s interactive experience plans have been halted, the district still intends to go forward with a complimentary project to expand its facilities and services in the south east visitor area. The district plans on shifting its focus from the experiential tours to expanding its visitor center in a manner that coincides with an interactive outdoor exhibition scheduled to open in 2012 with funding from the National Science Foundation.

Bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie said there is a slight possibility the district could review its experiential tourism plans once the retrofit work is complete in four years, but for now, the proposal is off the table indefinitely.

“It's unfortunate, because the public seems real excited about this plan,” said Currie. “But the timing is just not right now.”

The experiential tourism proposal was one of several revenue-generating and cost-saving measures being considered by the bridge district. Other plans include a shift to all-electronic tolling stations, implementing a $3 toll for carpoolers, and continuing labor negotiations with union groups. The $3 carpool toll could go into effect as early as July 1.

$132 million: Projected five-year shortfall for bridge district
$9 million: Projected annual revenue of experiential tourism proposal
$385 million: Cost of planned retrofit and rehabilitation work on the bridge
$38.1 million: Annual car crossings on the bridge

Source: Golden Gate Bridge District

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