Legislators announce new Hood Canal Bridge opening restrictions

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Pilot project begins May 21, 2011

OLYMPIA – State Representatives Kevin Van De Wege and Steve Tharinger, together with state Senator Jim Hargrove, are spreading the word to their Clallam and Jefferson County constituents about an upcoming change to Hood Canal Bridge openings.

Beginning May 21, bridge openings will be restricted between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. every day.  The revised operating regulations are due to a U.S. Coast Guard-led pilot project, which aims to improve road travel predictability in the region, and avoid major delays and long vehicle queues that obstruct road access.

Under current operating procedures, the Hood Canal Bridge must open for any vessel that provides at least one hour of notice. Last summer, the bridge opened 29 times in June and 43 times in July.  Residents along SR 104 in Jefferson County often experience restricted driveway access from stopped traffic during bridge openings.  With some bridge openings lasting 30 minutes or more, residents and community members brought the situation to the attention of state legislators last year, who in turn sought help from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.  

Cantwell followed up on the legislators’ concerns, and worked together with the Coast Guard to move forward on the pilot project.

“I applaud the Coast Guard for taking this step towards a long-term solution that will improve access to Hood Canal Bridge,” said Cantwell, D-WA. “This pilot project should reduce traffic delays and improve travel predictability for Washingtonians.”

The restricted period runs from 3 p.m. on May 21, 2011, to 6 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2011. U.S. Navy vessels are exempt from the revised regulations.

The Coast Guard is accepting public comment through Nov. 30, 2011. Per instructions printed in the Federal Register, to submit a comment online, go to www.regulations.gov, and click on the ‘‘submit a comment’’ box, which will then become highlighted in blue. In the ‘‘Keyword’’ box, insert ‘‘USCG–2011–0314’’, click ‘‘Search’’, and then click on the balloon shape in the ‘‘Actions’’ column.

Once the public comment period ends, the Coast Guard will evaluate the comments along with traffic data and drawbridge records to determine the next steps.

The notice published in the Federal Register is available here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-05-06/pdf/2011-11059.pdf

Van De Wege, Tharinger and Hargrove represent the 24th Legislative District, which includes all of Clallam and Jefferson Counties.

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