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.
Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway Association
Posted March 21, 2017 04:40 am – Updated March 21, 2017 11:38 am
By SHELDON GARDNER firstname.lastname@example.org
City of St. Augustine asks for U.S. Coast Guard’s help in easing traffic congestion
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:
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.
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
America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association