By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Lots of new information today in the fourth week of camera enforcement on the West Seattle low bridge.
Its use has been restricted since just after the high bridge closed last March 23rd. Seattle Police were periodically present in the area to enforce the restrictions, but a new state law allowed the city to pursue automated enforcement, and two cameras were turned on January 11th.
A subcommittee of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force has met more than a dozen times to review and discuss low-bridge policy, current and future. Subcommittee member Lora Radford of the West Seattle Junction Association joined us in a conversation this morning with SDOT’s Meghan Shepard.
According to Shepard, traffic is down about a quarter on the low bridge since the automated-enforcement cameras were activated.
She also confirmed what a WSB comment last weekend revealed – though the city had said there would be no grace period, the “first couple of weeks” did result in warnings being sent to those caught breaking the rules, not $75 citations. “Several hundred” violations were being recorded daily, Shepard said.
What they learn about traffic patterns with the enforcement in place is what will enable them to decide whether the bridge restrictions can be loosened, and/or new user groups added. This week, SDOT is adding one user group – on-call health-care workers who have to quickly respond to a facility on the other side of the river. If someone in that situation uses the low bridge and receives a citation, they will be able to get it dropped via a special process:
Shepard said they’re not certain how many people that will affect, so they’ve launched a survey and Q&A sessions to try to get a sense of that. Next potential group would be patients who need to get across the river for potentially life-saving treatment. According to Shepard, that will be difficult to define, so they’re in a fact-finding mode for starters, with no timeline yet on when that might happen. As for other user groups, or expanded hours for open access (currently 9 pm-5 am seven days a week), she said that changes are “always on the table.”
Right now, those allowed to use the bridge remain:
If you are a West Seattle business and think you should qualify – you can contact the WSJA or West Seattle Chamber of Commerce if you are a member of either organization, or email email@example.com if not. WSJA, for example, has 84 vehicles on its list; Shepard said the access list is evaluated monthly. It goes to the enforcement-camera vendor, Verra, to sort out the permitted vehicles from the violators.
They continue to “reserve” capacity on the low bridge for trucks that will be using it when Terminal 5’s north berth opens for cargo use as soon as June. How many trucks are expected? Shepard said the original numbers used to calculate capacity were from the Environmental Impact Statement for the T-5 modernization project, and they’re currently evaluating new numbers just received from the port.
More low-bridge updates are expected when the full WSBCTF meets next week – 4 pm Thursday, February 11th (check here for the viewing link).