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Changes Possible to Bridge of Lions? St. Augustine, FL, AICW Statute Mile 778


Our thanks to Brad Pickle, Director of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association for this article from The St. Augustine Record. With a closed vertical clearance of 18ft, the Bridge of Lions Bridge crosses the Waterway connecting the heart of downtown St. Augustine with St. Augustine Beach to the east.

Dear Supporters of the AIWA,
Our partners in Florida asked us to make everyone aware of these proposed changes in the St. Augustine area of the AIWW. The AIWA is not supportive of these changes and will be drafting a letter of concern to the U.S. Coast Guard. We wanted to make sure everyone was aware of these changes in case you also wanted to comment.
Respectfully,
Brad Pickel
Executive Director
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association

Posted March 21, 2017 04:40 am – Updated March 21, 2017 11:38 am
By SHELDON GARDNER sheldon.gardner@staugustine.com
City of St. Augustine asks for U.S. Coast Guard’s help in easing traffic congestion

READ MORE!
The times could be changing for the Bridge of Lions.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which controls the bridge’s operating schedule, is looking for public comments about whether to adjust how often the bridge closes to vehicle traffic and opens to boating traffic.

As it stands, the bridge opens for boat traffic on the hour and half hour from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, except for 8 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. on weekdays that aren’t federal holidays. Outside of those times, the bridge opens on-demand for boats.

Those on-demand times cause more frequent bridge draws and add to traffic congestion, city officials said.

So the city is asking the Coast Guard to extend the every-half-hour operating schedule from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and also to stop the bridge from opening at 3:30 p.m. on the weekends and on federal holidays.

“The idea behind it is to at least extend it further into the evening so it’s not opening whenever there’s a commercial vessel … to provide a little more rhythm to the city,” said Reuben Franklin Jr., the city’s mobility program manager.

Details on the plan are in a recently published notice from the Coast Guard in the Federal Register. The plan will be open for public comment through May 17.

The comments will help the Coast Guard determine whether to make changes at all or whether to tweak the city’s plan, said Michael Lieberum, Coast Guard bridge management specialist.

The guard has raised some concern about part of the plan.

“Amending the twice an hour opening schedule to a 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. period should not have an unreasonable impact on navigation,” according to the notice. “However, amending the bridge operating schedule to exclude a 3:30 p.m. opening on weekends and federal holidays may have a negative impact to the public, as there are many tourists in vehicles and vessels in St. Augustine during these periods.”

If the plan does move forward, it still has to go through another round of public comment once the proposed rules are final, he said.

If the guard supports the changes, getting from here to a revised scheduled at the Bridge of Lions will likely take more than a year, he said.

Lieberum said the Coast Guard approaches these types of requests with caution. Typically, the Coast Guard doesn’t issue an “advance notice” like they are in this case.

Sometimes changing a bridge opening schedule can actually make traffic worse, he said.

“You have to judge all this together,” he said. “It’s easier to say changing the bridge will make traffic better. It’s not necessarily the case.”

And this nice bit of history from Glen Moore on AGLCA’s Forum:

Kim,
Thanks for informing the membership of the City of St. Augustine’s request to reduce opening times for the Bridge of Lions, in downtown St. Augustine. And, more importantly, sharing the information on how to comment to the Coast Guard.

The Bridge of Lions, originally built in 1927, was declared unsafe and required to be replaced in 1999. There was much discussion among residents about the rebuilding. One group (Save Our Bridge) wanted to keep the historic appearance of the bridge, the other group wanted to build a higher bridge to eliminate or reduce the number of openings. The historic group won.

The cost of building a new bridge was doubled by this decision as a new parallel concrete bridge (only to be dismantled later) was built next to the old bridge to carry traffic while the new bridge was built in the same location. And, it is a new bridge – only the four towers are original. The City claimed that they were just rehabbing the old bridge to get around the Coast Guard regulation that new bridges built in noncompliance with CG regulations must be open-on-demand. The city chose appearance over convenience of vehicular traffic. Now, they want to disadvantage boaters because of their decision. This will only be the first of the reductions. Auto traffic in a city designed long before cars will continue to be congested and more requests for reductions in bridge openings will occur.
This is an opportunity to let your voice be heard.
Glen Moore
Last Dance

And this advice from Kim Russo, Director of AGLCA

I’ll be commenting on behalf of AGLCA based on what I hear from our members. But I still believe it’s important for individual members to submit their well-thought out comments. Here’s a direct link to submit your comments. There is a link on that page to a “Commenter’s Checklist” that will give you some tips on constructing your comments. https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=USCG-2016-0723-0001
Kim Russo
Director
America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association
krusso@greatloop.org

Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Eastern Florida Bridge Directory Listing For Bridge of Lions

Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Location of Bridge of Lions

Comments from the Cruisers' Net Community (3)

  1. P McDonald -  March 31, 2017 - 9:37 pm

    This portion of the article says it all “In accordance with Nautical Chart 11485, 37th Ed., Nov. 2014, the Bridge of Lions has a vertical clearance of 18 feet in the closed (down) position at mean high water and a horizontal clearance of 79 feet. Additionally, there is a note on the chart stating “Strong tidal currents run perpendicular to the Bridge of Lions opening. Vessels engaged in towing and pushing operations are advised to transit the bridge opening during slack tide and, if necessary, breakdown the tow in small units or use adequate tugs.” In regards to the Bridge of Lions, the U.S. Coast Pilot 4, Chapter 12, Edition 47, 2015 also states “Caution is advised because the tidal currents, particularly ebb, run at right angles to the bridge. It is advisable to drift large tows through this opening at slack water. Normal flood currents of 1 knot and ebb currents of 1.5 knots may be expected. Several mishaps involving the bridge being hit by vessels, which have lost maneuvering control during periods of ebb currents, have occurred. Caution is advised when transiting the area.” This is an area that requires “CAUTION” and does not need additional navigational obstacles (bridge closures).

    Reply
  2. Gregory Yount -  March 31, 2017 - 3:03 pm

    So what are the proposed changes????

    Reply
    • Gregory Yount -  April 10, 2017 - 11:54 pm

      Here is the notice regarding bridge opening restrictions:

      Drawbridge Operation Regulation; Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, St. Augustine, FL

      This Proposed Rule document was issued by the Coast Guard (USCG)

      For related information, Open Docket Folder
      Action

      Advance notice of proposed rulemaking.
      Summary

      The Coast Guard is seeking comments and information concerning a proposal to change the operating schedule for the Bridge of Lions across the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, St. Augustine, Florida. The City of St. Augustine is concerned that vehicle traffic is becoming exponentially worse with each passing season and that on-demand bridge openings are contributing to vehicle traffic backups. The proposed modification would extend the twice an hour draw opening period from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and preclude the bridge draw from opening at 3:30 p.m. on weekends and Federal holidays.
      Dates

      Comments and related material must reach the Coast Guard on or before May 15, 2017.
      Addresses

      You may submit comments identified by docket number USCG-2016-0723 using the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. See the “Public Participation and Request for Comments” portion of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for further instructions on submitting comments.
      For Further Information Contact

      If you have questions about this notice, call or email MST1 Timothy Fosdick, Sector Jacksonville, Waterways Management Division, U.S. Coast Guard; telephone 904-714-7623, email Timothy.P.Fosdick@uscg.mil.
      Supplementary Information
      Table of Abbreviations

      CFR Code of Federal Regulations

      DHS Department of Homeland Security

      FR Federal Register

      NPRM Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

      ANPRM Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

      § Section Symbol

      U.S.C. United States Code
      A. Public Participation and Request for Comments

      We view public participation as essential to effective rulemaking, and will consider all comments and material received during the comment period. Your comment can help shape the outcome of this rulemaking. If you submit a comment, please include the docket number for this rulemaking, indicate the specific section of this document to which each comment applies, and provide a reason for each suggestion or recommendation.

      We encourage you to submit comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. If your material cannot be submitted using http://www.regulations.gov, contact the person in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this document for alternate instructions.

      We accept anonymous comments. All comments received will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov and will include any personal information you have provided. For more about privacy and the docket, you may review a Privacy Act notice regarding the Federal Docket Management System in the March 24, 2005, issue of the Federal Register (70 FR 15086).

      Documents mentioned in this ANPRM as being available in the docket, and all public comments, will be in our online docket at http://www.regulations.gov and can be viewed by following that Web site’s instructions. Additionally, if you go to the online docket and sign up for email alerts, you will be notified when comments are posted or a final rule is published.
      B. Regulatory History and Information

      In 2015, the City of St. Augustine approached the Coast Guard with a recommendation to amend the Bridge of Lions operating schedule. Shortly thereafter, a meeting was held with the City of St. Augustine, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), bridge owner, and the U.S. Coast Guard to seek improvements to reduce the vehicle traffic backups at the intersection of A1A, the Bridge of Lions, and Avenida Menendez. During the meeting, FDOT agreed to work with the City traffic engineers to develop better traffic signaling techniques to reduce the vehicle traffic backups. In May 2016, the City of St. Augustine proposed an amendment to the bridge operating schedule to reduce vehicle traffic backups in the affected area. The City would like to extend the 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. twice an hour opening schedule to 9 p.m., daily and preclude the bridge draw from opening at 3:30 p.m. on weekends and Federal holidays.

      The current operating schedule, as published in 33 CFR 117.261(d), reads as follows: Bridge of Lions (SR A1A) bridge, mile 777.9 at St. Augustine. The draw shall open on signal; except that, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. the draw need open only on the hour and half-hour; however, the draw need not open at 8 a.m., 12 noon, and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday except Federal holidays. From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and Federal holidays the draw need only open on the hour and half-hour.

      In accordance with Nautical Chart 11485, 37th Ed., Nov. 2014, the Bridge of Lions has a vertical clearance of 18 feet in the closed (down) position at mean high water and a horizontal clearance of 79 feet. Additionally, there is a note on the chart stating “Strong tidal currents run perpendicular to the Bridge of Lions opening. Vessels engaged in towing and pushing operations are advised to transit the bridge opening during slack tide and, if necessary, breakdown the tow in small units or use adequate tugs.” In regards to the Bridge of Lions, the U.S. Coast Pilot 4, Chapter 12, Edition 47, 2015 also states “Caution is advised because the tidal currents, particularly ebb, run at right angles to the bridge. It is advisable to drift large tows through this opening at slack water. Normal flood currents of 1 knot and ebb currents of 1.5 knots may be expected. Several mishaps involving the bridge being hit by vessels, which have lost maneuvering control during periods of ebb currents, have occurred. Caution is advised when transiting the area.”

      The original Bridge of Lions was built in 1927 and replaced in 2010. The new bridge was completed with no modifications to the vertical or horizontal clearances; therefore, there was no impact to the number of bridge openings due to vessel traffic.
      C. Basis and Purpose

      The legal basis and authorities for this ANPRM are found in 33 U.S.C. 499, 33 CFR 1.05-1, and Department of Homeland Security Delegation No. 0170.1. The Coast Guard is considering a change to the operating schedule for the Bridge of Lions across the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, St. Augustine, Florida. The Coast Guard received a request from the City of St. Augustine to modify the operating schedule for the Bridge of Lions in an effort to decrease vehicle traffic backups caused by the significant increase in vehicle traffic combined with the on-demand bridge openings. The purpose of this ANPRM is to solicit comments on a potential proposed rulemaking concerning a request to change the operating schedule for the Bridge of Lions.
      D. Discussion of Proposed Rule

      Amending the twice an hour opening schedule to a 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. period should not have an unreasonable impact on navigation. However, amending the bridge operating schedule to exclude a 3:30 p.m. opening on weekends and Federal holidays may have a negative impact to the public, as there are many tourists in vehicles and vessels in St. Augustine during these periods. Additional input will be required from the City of St. Augustine to understand why this particular time was selected. It will also be essential to determine whether any commercial vessel operators would be directly impacted by amending the bridge operating schedule.
      E. Information Requested

      To aid the Coast Guard in developing a proposed rule, we seek any comments, whether positive or negative, including but not limited to: The impact on vessel traffic and/or marine businesses in the area when extending the twice an hour opening; any potential negative impact to vessel traffic or marine businesses of not opening the bridge between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.; whether the extension to 9 p.m. of the Bridge of Lions twice an hour opening schedule would reduce traffic congestion and; if traffic congestion would be reduced if the bridge did not open between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on weekends and Federal holidays.
      Dated: March 9, 2017.
      S.A. Buschman,
      Rear Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard, Commander, Seventh Coast Guard District.
      [FR Doc. 2017-05071 Filed 3-14-17; 8:45 am]
      BILLING CODE 9110-04-P

      Reply

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