(photo by WSB contributing photojournalist Christopher Boffoli)
Just in from the U.S. Coast Guard: They’ve turned thumbs down on the City of Seattle request to restrict openings of the “low bridge” during peak commute hours (comments were taken May-July; WSB coverage here). We will keep expanding this report with more details over the next hour or so, but for starters, Austin Pratt of the Coast Guard told WSB by phone that the reasons include “massive” opposition by the Port of Seattle and local maritime concerns, as well as not enough traffic volume using the bridge to justify the change. Here’s the official document (published today in the Federal Register); technically, the action taken by the USCG was to “withdraw” the proposal to change the bridge rules. Read on for the key excerpt from the federal document explaining why this proposal isn’t going forward – as well as additional information we’ll continue to add:
From the official document:
The notice of proposed rulemaking is being withdrawn because the Spokane Street Bridge draw records along with road traffic counts conducted after the notice of proposed rulemaking was published indicate that the number of draw openings and amount of traffic using the Spokane Street Bridge are not sufficient to warrant the negative impact that the proposed rule would have on commercial maritime traffic using the waterway under the bridge. Specifically, draw records indicate that the Spokane Street Bridge is opened an average of only two to three times per week during each of the proposed closed periods. While these openings halt traffic, the amount of traffic affected is much lower than other drawbridges in Seattle. Traffic counts on Spokane Street during the subject periods were also much lower than arterials like 15th Avenue and Montlake Avenue, which also cross drawbridges in Seattle.
We’re seeking reaction from the city – specifically, from West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who had been a primary advocate of the proposal (here’s our article from March), and from SDOT. Meantime, another excerpt about the comments received (we had published several reports with information on how to comment, and dozens of West Seattleites did indeed do so):
The Coast Guard received 80 total responses to the notice of proposed rulemaking. 18 were from commercial maritime entities with an interest in using the waterway under the bridge. All of these responses rejected the proposed change due to delays in the movement of maritime traffic that would result from the proposed rule. The remaining responses were from individual commuters, many of which were bicyclists, with an interest in using the Spokane Street Bridge itself. All of these responses endorsed the proposal in order to facilitate commuting to and from downtown Seattle. At least one response objected to the exemption for vessels of 5000 gross tons or greater and another suggested that the closure proposed for the morning hours was more vital than the afternoon.