Sign of the Times: The Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge Becomes a Boat Ramp (Statute Mile 338)
Many of us were glad to see the old Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge replaced by a modern high-rise last year. Between the mechanical problems and shoaling, many cruisers most certainly did NOT have a soft place in their hearts for the old, floating span.
Now that it’s gone, though, I cannot help but be a little saddened at this piece of the past that is now long gone forever.
Below, we are pleased to present another superb report from our strategic partners, Captains Dian and Mark Doyle, founders and owners of On The Water Chartguides (http://www.OnTheWaterChartGuides.com). Check out their NEW paper AICW Anchorage Guides (with a 42% discount until 8/10/12), by following the link above!
Passed through the Sunset Beach area a couple months ago and was reminiscing … about bridges, and about a slower pace. [smile]
The Sunset Beach Pontoon Bridge at STM 337.9 was an historic landmark’”the only vehicle pontoon bridge left in operation on the entire East Coast.
But a floating pontoon bridge, with “zero clearance,” became more and more incompatible with modern times and schedules.
About six times per month the tide was so low the bridge couldn’t be opened. Boats had to circle and wait through low tide. And if there were high winds, the bridge could be closed indefinitely.
In addition to its hourly scheduled openings, the bridge opened for every commercial vessel. (Trivia Fact: Because the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway was constructed before bridges, technically commercial vessels take precedence over vehicular traffic.)
And, of course, many island residents (local taxpayers) felt they were spending too much time waiting for the bridge …
But the final demise of the bridge was credited to safety concerns for island residents. Emergency crews had difficulty responding promptly to calls on the island. There was also concern about the risk of a serious fire spreading, given that large ladder trucks and tankers were too heavy to cross the old pontoon bridge.
The site of the old pontoon bridge will become a public park, with boat ramp access to the ICW and plans to incorporate remnants of the old pontoon bridge in the park design.
As of June 2012, you can see construction of the boat ramp at the old pontoon bridge location.
Best and see you On the Water,
Captains Mark & Diana Doyle