A few years ago, the transportation district invited public comment about installing a suicide barrier, said Mulligan, the transportation district head, and opinion was deeply divided.

"Leave the bridge alone," one commenter posted. "It's not the bridge's fault people choose to commit suicide there."

Another commenter echoed a common perception about how effective a barrier could be: "Sadly, desperate people do commit suicide and they will find another means to do it if the GG bridge is not available to them."

An artist's rendering from the proposal shows a horizontal barrier that extends from the deck, beneath the roadway, and doesn't clash with the bridge's unique International Orange hue.

Berthia said a suicide net certainly would have discouraged him from considering jumping, that his attraction to the bridge was the ease with which he could perish.

Very rarely do people who are stopped from jumping go on to commit suicide, according to a study published in 1978 by Richard Seiden, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.

More than 90% of would-be jumpers who were stopped, according to the oft-cited study, were still alive decades later.

Berthia and Briggs say the decision to fund a barrier is overdue.

"It should have been there a long time ago," said Berthia. "A lot of lives could have been saved."

Briggs says that the father of a young man who died after jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge summed it up potently for him.

"A view or a life? A view or a life?" said Briggs, paraphrasing the father. Those few words were what he says convinced him that something needed to be done.

When asked about advocates' argument that lives have been lost needlessly during the years the transportation group assembled its plan, Mulligan said, "With the passage of time I think society's values and understanding of suicide has evolved, and so has our board's."

It will be several years before the net is built, said Mulligan. Still, a plan in motion -- even if it takes some time -- is of great solace to advocates.

"(It has been) 77 years of needless deaths and survivor family devastation," Kevin Hines, one of the rare people who survived a suicide attempt from the bridge, said before the board's vote.

He said the move toward a safety barrier means the community at last is "placing higher value and worth on people's lives over a piece of bright red iron."