Reviews mixed on City proposal for opening Bridge of Lions

Do Historic City News readers believe that extending the restricted hours on weekdays by three hours, in the evening from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., during which the Bridge of Lions may only be opened once every thirty minutes will help relieve traffic congestion downtown and on Anastasia Island?

The current schedule allows a bridgetender to open the draw at the request of a vessel, but only on the half hour between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. unless it is a Saturday, Sunday or federal holiday. As an additional restriction, on regular weekdays, the draw is to remain closed at 8:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, and 5:00 p.m. At all other times before 7:00 a.m. and after 6:00 p.m., the Bridge of Lions opens on the demand of marine traffic. There are exceptions for vessels under tow, being pushed by a tugboat, or vessels experiencing emergencies.

City Manager John Regan has asked the U.S. Coast Guard to make that change to the opening schedule and he has been in charge of discussing that change since 2015. Two years later, the Coast Guard is asking the public to weigh in.


  • Of course, city staffers like mobility czar Xavier Pellicer ($59,283.39 annually), Public Works Director Martha Graham ($113,695.73 annually), and General Services Director Jim Piggott ($103,674.52 annually) believe their boss, City Manager John Regan ($157,317.65 annually) has submitted an unrivaled proposal.

 

  • However, recreational and commercial boaters as well as part-time and full-time boat residents seem to share the opinion of Geoffrey Riding:

“I urge the U.S. Coast Guard not to change the Bridge of Lions opening schedule. The Bridge of Lions in in a congested area of the Intracoastal Waterway with a marina and mooring fields. It is in an area of changing tidal currents which can be swift at times. Reducing opening times will increase congestion on the water and increase the probability of accidents in this busy area of the ICW. The new bridge built by the City of St Augustine in 1999 has limited clearance. Periodic openings are needed to permit boat traffic. To reduce the vehicle congestion in the city caused by these bridge openings, St Augustine is seeking to reduce the frequency of openings. This will inconvenience boaters and reduce safety. Boats are not like cars. You cannot just put a boat in park and wait.”

 

  • Discounting the identical messages from the city’s “Mass Mail Campaign”, original responses from residents seemed to follow the points made by William Abare:

“As the saying goes, the train has already left the station. We had an opportunity to address this issue when we were trying to decide whether to repair, restore, or replace the Bridge of Lions. I believe that we should have replaced the single bridge with two two-lane bridges. This option may still be worth considering. Regardless, the traffic problem is only going to get worse, and controlling the number of openings at peak times seems to make good sense.”


In all, the following 97 citizens have responded as of press time today:

Comment Submitted by Harriet Havanich
Comment Submitted by Robert Schindler
Comment Submitted by Jessie Dittmer
Comment Submitted by Albert Presgraves
Comment Submitted by Lynn Richardson
Comment Submitted by Geoffrey Riding
Comment Submitted by Thomas Lahey
Comment Submitted by Melanie Luke
Comment Submitted by Robert Kovach
Comment Submitted by Tom Kataras
Comment Submitted by Tasha Peters
Comment Submitted by Peter Colket
Comment Submitted by Susan Coman
Comment Submitted by Matt Goolsby
Comment Submitted by James Daugharthy
Comment Submitted by Cherry Gaffney
Comment Submitted by Charles Williamson
Comment Submitted by Tom Bartol
Comment Submitted by Jim Potochick
Comment Submitted by Keith Kremer
Comment Submitted by Jay Bliss
Comment Submitted by Don Pratt
Comment Submitted by Diane Bradley
Comment Submitted by Anthony Adams
Comment Submitted by Stephen Starling
Comment Submitted by Anonymous
Comment Submitted by Tom Wemett
Comment Submitted by Roger Moffat
Comment Submitted by William Abare
Comment Submitted by Anonymous
Comment Submitted by Anonymous
Comment Submitted by Richard Heist
Comment Submitted by William Schwartz
Comment Submitted by Lefterri Prodromou
Comment Submitted by Ulrica [Last Name Unknown]
Comment Submitted by Jim Piggott
Comment Submitted by Joe Neighbor
Comment Submitted by Danette Potochick
Comment Submitted by Marie Inge
Comment Submitted by Ray Barnard
Comment Submitted by Kay Coffey
Comment Submitted by Carol L. Jagodinski
Comment Submitted by Cory B.
Comment Submitted by Nick Jones
Comment Submitted by Erin Gunia
Comment Submitted by William Jones
Comment Submitted by anonymous ANONYMOUS
Comment Submitted by Janet Zimmerman
Comment Submitted by Gordon Wilson
Comment Submitted by Michael Longstreet
Comment Submitted by Mark Crosley, Florida Inland Navigation District
Comment Submitted by Anonymous
Comment Submitted by Tracy Upchurch
Comment Submitted by Andrew Woods
Comment Submitted by Matt Brown
Comment Submitted by Vic Freeman
Comment Submitted by Brian Roach
Comment Submitted by William Wright
Comment Submitted by Rick McChesney
Comment Submitted by Enrique (“Henry”) Estevez
Comment Submitted by Dan Davidson
Comment Submitted by Glen Moore
Comment Submitted by Paul Flynn
Comment Submitted by Martha Graham
Comment Submitted by Charles Willoughby
Comment Submitted by Stephen Sipe
Comment Submitted by T N
Comment Submitted by P. McDonald
Comment Submitted by Ann Breslauer
Comment Submitted by William Russell
Comment Submitted by Michael Carr
Comment Submitted by Anonymous
Comment Submitted by Arthur Gauthier
Comment Submitted by Dalton Williams
Comment Submitted by Don Bruce
Comment Submitted by Richard Hermann
Comment Submitted by Anonymous (DF)
Comment Submitted by Leonard Pellicer
Comment Submitted by Jeffrey Siegel
Comment Submitted by James Schock
Comment Submitted by Megan Colagrande
Comment Submitted by James Riley
Comment Submitted by Captain Curtis Curry
Comment Submitted by Scott Tagen
Comment Submitted by Helen Deitrick
Comment Submitted by Jim O’Malley
Comment Submitted by Faye Kenney
Comment Submitted by Xavier Pellicer
Comment Submitted by Anonymous
Comment Submitted by Bill [Last Name Unknown]
Comment Submitted by Michale Hervey
Mass Mail Campaign 1: Comment Submitted by Erin Landry
Comment Submitted by Lisa Ridenour
Comment Submitted by Irwin Wilensky
Comment Submitted by Tim Mason
Comment Submitted by Randi Kersey
Comment Submitted by Michelle Bennett


For background, the City of St Augustine does not own the Bridge of Lions — the Florida Department of Transportation does. And, FDOT controls all state roads in Florida, which includes SR-A1A that crosses the bridge. The City of St Augustine does not control the opening or the closing of the Bridge of Lions, the US Coast Guard does. And, contrary to some public comments submitted online, the City of St Augustine did not control the 1999 decision to rebuild the antiquated two-lane draw bridge, the US Army Corps of Engineers had to make that call.

At this time, the Coast Guard is seeking comments and information concerning the proposal to change the operating schedule for the Bridge of Lions across the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.

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 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily, and preclude the draw from opening at 3:30 p.m. on weekends and Federal holidays.

To add your comments to the proposal, visit https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=USCG-2016-0723-0001

Comments and related material must reach the Coast Guard on or before May 15, 2017.

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