Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bridge of Lions Opening Times May Change, Thanks to City Pursuing USCG Rulemaking Procedure

Good action, long delayed by City Hall denizens, who long ignored citizen suggestions. Case in point: in 2009, when WILLIAM HARRISS was City Manager JOE BOLES was Mayor of St. Augustine, I suggested the City do what it has now done -- trigger a rulemaking procedure by the Coast Guard. First, my 2009 letter; then, the March 21, 2017 St. Augustine Record article on the City following my 2009 suggestion:

Ed Slavin September 23, 2009 letter to the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard
Dear Commandant:

I hereby respectfully petition the Commandant of the Coast Guard to change the regulations for the opening of the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine, Florida, effective upon the reopening of the restored historic bridge later this year.

I request that to conserve energy and to decrease traffic snarls during commuter hours, there be no bridge openings between the hours of 7:30 AM and 9:30 AM and 4:00 to 6 PM, Monday through Friday (except on holidays and in the case of actual emergencies).

During reconstruction of the old bridge, it has become appzrent that there are long waits by commuters for bridge openings during commuter hours. This results in dozens of people being delayed for small boaters who could adjust their schedules. This also results in unnecessary, preventable emissions and pollution in our Nation's Oldest European-founded City. As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Spanish in Florida (2013) and the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine (2015), we need to clean up our town and its image, starting with a St. Augustine National Historical Park, National Seashore and Scenic Coastal Parkway.

We urgently need to adjust the bridge opening schedule on weekdays so that our downtown is attractive to tourists from around the world.

I further request that the Coast Guard environmental affairs office study the effects upon energy consumption and traffic tie-ups of bridge openings at other locations, with an eye toward reducing gasoline and diesel consumption.

Respectfully submitted,

Ed Slavin
Clean Up City of St. Augustine
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085

Posted March 21, 2017 04:40 am - Updated March 21, 2017 04:43 am
By SHELDON GARDNER sheldon.gardner@staugustine.com
City of St. Augustine asks for U.S. Coast Guard’s help in easing traffic congestion

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.”
Have Comments?

To review the notice and to submit comments, go to regulations.gov and search for docket number USCG-2016-0723. Comments and related materials are due by May 15. For questions, contact Timothy Fosdick with the U.S. Coast Guard at 904-714-7623 or timothy.p.fosdick@uscg.mil.


Jeff Waltz
You know the most dumb thing I ever saw was they built a bridge right next to the bridge of lions rebuilt the bridge of lions and then tore the temporary bridge down. They could have just left it there so that they could have just left the bridge of Lions open to boat traffic all the time.

Kevin Fogarty
Building a permanent sister bridge would have eased downtown traffic and avoided the expense of building and then removing the temporary bridge.

Jim Stephens
The bridge operators need to be held to account when they open the bridge outside the specified times. It can be very annoying to time a bridge crossing so as to avoid an opening and then get caught when the bridge operator opens the bridge at a random time like 2:45pm. It has happened to me several times.

Jack (sponger) Harvell
They had their chance and screwed it up. Let the boats wait instead of the teeming hordes, locals and turistas alike, in contrast to watching the sailboats crawl by unscheduled and indifferent while stuck on or at the entrance to the bridge, at rush hour...which is all the time at this point..

Dward Farquart
Wonder how the "Save Our Bridge" folks feel now !?! We had the chance to replace the old bridge with a high rise that would eliminate the bridge openings all together but they killed that so we could enjoy the view from the bridge while we wait for it to open.
Remember, that waterway was there way before we put a bridge over it.

Caren Grant
That beautiful bridge needed to be saved. When you live in a city that's more than 450 years old, it's par for the course that you may have to tolerate less than ideal traffic situations in order to preserve the history and beauty. I would not want to see a sister bridge and definitely not a high rise bridge unless it was located out of view from the old city waterfront.
I think the new plan makes sense. If you don't like getting caught in traffic in or on the Bridge of Lions, use 312. Or, you could just put your car in park, relax for a few minutes, and take photos of the view.

Dward Farquart
I have lived here since before the 375th birthday of the city. The bridge has always been a source of contention for those of us that have to make a living in this town. Would suggest that some of you late comers who enjoy history so much, visit Pensacola and view their bridges...they were founded in 1559...

Nigel Owens
Suggestion 7:30am-9:00am No Bridge openings. 9:00-3:30 Open on demand. 3:30pm-5:00pm No openings. 5-9 hour/half hour. All other times open on demand.

Douglas Jordan
I don't think the proposed change will negatively impact vessel navigation too much, but I am not so sure it's going to help vehicle traffic that much. The real problem, in my opinion, is that the city is attracting too many visitors with cars. I think a better solution is to have parking facilities outside the downtown area and offer free trolleys (make the hotel, shop and restaurant owners pay for it) to bring tourists into the historic district. Too many cars the past 3 years, thanks to all the Top 10 lists. It saddens me to see a city I love so much turned into Disney World.

Douglas Jordan
In my opinion, the bottom line is this: The problem is too many cars, not too many boats.


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
Advance notice of proposed rulemaking.
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.
Comments and related material must reach the Coast Guard on or before May 15, 2017.
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]


Anonymous said...

I see the pont and agree that bridge openings create traffic messes. However, I am not a fan of catering to automobiles ...period. Once apon a time citizens on foot used to reign supreme...then cars came along and regardless of quaint "rules' such as yielding to walkways ( street crossings) the fact is that a 4000 pound car will beat a person on foot any day.

Enter our waterways which used to be mostly free of interference by land bound citizens...ships could pretty much travel as will for business or pleasure. Now it seems a capt. can hardly navigate in the inland waterway. Imagine you are crusiing south for business ( fishing boat or even Coast Guard cutter) ...at each draw bridge you have to sit and wait 30 minutes or more..1 bridge isn't a big deal but bridge after bridge after bridge is a big deal and why is all this?

Its that way because cities here have terrible urban planning...and just can't seem to say NO to greedy developers ...more hotels...more cars...worse traffic, more pollution and now our waterways are ask to be clogged and hindred all so some tourist can come and spend money here.

Nope.. I vote leave the bridge as it is and get a better PLAN to deal with this traffic here. Is it the ship captain's fault St Augustine is allowing 4 new large hotels and the horribly HUGE Sebastian PUD...noooo.

The river was here long before you and I and if you think about it St Augustine wouldn't even exist if not for the waterway and the benefits it provided many years ago. It is a damn shame to see man trample everything...really is.

Warren Celli said...

Good comment! I agree.

Here is a workable solution proposed back around 2003.
(Highlight and right click link to view page.)