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Funding OK’d for suicide barrier at Golden Gate Bridge

More than 1,400 people jumped to their deaths since 1937.

Eric Risberg/Associated press/File 2006

More than 1,400 people jumped to their deaths since 1937.

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge moved a big step closer to getting an oft-debated suicide barrier after bridge officials Friday approved a $76 million funding package for a net system that would prevent people from jumping to their deaths.

The bridge district’s board of directors voted unanimously in favor of the funding for a steel suicide net. The funding sources are $20 million in bridge toll revenue, $49 million in federal money, and $7 million from the state.

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A tearful Dan Barks of Napa, who lost his son, Donovan, to suicide on the bridge in 2008, said after the vote that he was almost speechless. ‘‘A lot of people have done so much incredible work to get this accomplished,’’ he said.

He rose from his knees and shared a tearful embrace with Sue Story of Rocklin, whose son Jacob jumped off the bridge in 2010.

‘‘We did it, Dan! We did it! It’s no longer the Bridge of Death anymore,’’ she said.

At least some of the money still requires additional approval. The bridge’s board, however, has now taken its final step in adopting the net.

‘‘The tragedy of today is that we can’t go back in time, we can’t save . . . the people who jumped off the bridge. But the good thing, with this vote today, we can vote in their memory,’’ board member Janet Reilly said.

The Golden Gate Bridge, with its sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, has long been a destination for people seeking to end their lives. Since it opened in 1937, more than 1,400 people have plunged to their deaths, including a record 46 suicides last year, officials said.

Officials have been discussing a suicide barrier on the bridge for decades. The bridge’s board voted in 2008 to install a stainless steel net, rejecting other options, including raising the 4-foot-high railings.

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