Most draw bridge lifts are reported in advance

Published 1:10 pm Wednesday, September 9, 2015

By Alyse Stanley

Staff writer

Ships have the right of way at drawbridges, but an informal agreement with VDOT makes warning commuters possible. Del. Rick Morris, R-64, said this is not enough and continues pushing for scheduled bridge lifts at the James River Bridge.

Coast Guard regulation requires draw bridges be opened at the request of passing ships. However, the Virginia Pilots Association and captains can send informal notifications to VDOT estimating what time they need the bridge lifted that day.

Maritime vessels are not required to send advanced notice, but VDOT still receives it “most of the time” said Laurie Simmons, senior public affairs specialist at VDOT. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

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VDOT announces this information on their 511 system, which broadcast news organizations monitor for their morning reports.

Morris was unaware of this informal agreement before making his request. However, given that bridge lifts still occur during rush hour, the current system is not without its complaints, he said. If the informal agreement alleviates traffic congestion along the James River Bridge, he has not seen any specific data detailing this.

“Hopefully the Coast Guard evaluation can bring some real data for an objective evaluation on it,” Morris said.

In August, Morris submitted a request to the Fifth District SR Coast Guard to eliminate bridge lifts during weekday rush-hour traffic at the James River Bridge.  The Fifth District SR Coast Guard maintains authority over all waterways in the area.

The Coast Guard has since received his request and evaluation, though they have yet to review it in-depth. Morris hopes to speak with them in the coming weeks to establish a timeline pending approval.

As part of their requirements for considering scheduled lifts, the Fifth District SR Coast Guard is currently working with VDOT to complete a navigation evaluation. This evaluation takes into account the accessibility to alternative waterways and existing vessel trip frequency and among other factors. {/mprestriction}