News

Hood Canal test to keep bridge open to road traffic

by AMANDA WINTERS
Sequim Gazette

The Hood Canal bridge will undergo a test period this summer, during which it will not open from 3-6 p.m. for any vessel that isn’t part of the U.S. Navy.

 

The temporary deviation from normal bridge regulations will begin May 27 and end Sept. 30. During that time the bridge will not open between 3-6 p.m., except for Navy crossings. Currently the bridge must open for any vessel that provides at least one hour of notice and some openings can last more than 30 minutes.

 

Last summer, the bridge opened 29 times in June and 43 times in July, said Jennifer Waldref, communications specialist with the Democratic Caucus.

 

“Residents along state Route 104 in Jefferson County often experience restricted driveway access from stopped traffic during bridge openings,” she said. “With some bridge openings lasting 30 minutes or more, residents and community members brought the situation to the attention of state legislators last year, who in turn sought help from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.”

 

About half of the bridge openings are for Navy vessels, so there is a 50/50 chance of the bridge opening during the restricted hours anyway, Coast Guard Bridge Administrator Austin Pratt said.

 

“We view our action as tentative and experimental,” Pratt said. “There is no doubt that the subject period will have fewer draw openings but drivers will not be able to assume ‘no openings’ because of the Navy.”
A notice in the Federal Register points out other challenges of restricting the bridge openings:

“Traffic has generally exceeded 1,200 vehicles per hour throughout the week from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

However, peak traffic loads are not discernible for the morning hours as for the afternoon hours. Draw openings can occur at any time and do. A further difficulty is that this variability makes it difficult to match waterway traffic to peak road travel times.”

Public comments will be collected by the Coast Guard through Nov. 30. Comments may be submitted and identified by docket number USCG–2011–0314 through the Federal Rulemaking Portal: www.regulations.gov, by fax: 202-493-2251, or by mail: Docket Management Facility (M–30), U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12–140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE., Washington, D.C., 20590–0001.

Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequimgazette.com.
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