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Updated drawspan rules keep SR 520 traffic moving during rush hour

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Date:  Thursday, July 05, 2012

Contact: Bart Treece, WSDOT Communications, 206-440-4473

SEATTLE – Drawspan openings on the State Route SR 520 floating bridge should cause fewer delays for rush-hour traffic with rules revised in response to commuters and traffic.

Updated rules, which take effect 7 a.m., Thursday, July 5, prohibit drawspan openings 6:30 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays to better coincide with heaviest traffic times. Previously, drawspan openings were not allowed 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays. The revised rules were published Tuesday, July 3 in the U.S. Coast Guard’s Local Notice to Mariners.

“These revised rules reflect the feedback we received from drivers and updated traffic data,” said SR 520 Program Director Julie Meredith. “We greatly appreciate drivers’ patience while we gathered the information and worked with the Coast Guard to find a balance between drivers and the boating community that is allowed access on public waterways.”

“We’ve worked closely with WSDOT to make sure we met the needs of boaters and drivers,” said Coast Guard Bridge Administrator Randall Overton. “These updated rules will help minimize disruption to the morning and afternoon commutes without adversely affecting boaters.”

The Coast Guard initially revised the rules governing SR 520 drawspan openings April 1, when construction barges building the replacement floating bridge blocked the eastern navigation channel and prevented boats between 45 and 64 feet tall from using it. Boaters with vessels up to 45 feet tall can still use the western navigation channel.

The new rules for drawspan openings keep traffic moving and still allow boats taller than 45 feet to pass through SR 520. Details are summarized on the SR 520 drawspan page. You can also watch how the bridge is opened and an explanation about the change on WSDOT’s YouTube channel.

New SR 520 drawspan requirements at a glance

  • Drawspan openings are not allowed during peak commutes, 6:30-10 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. weekdays.
  • Boaters with vessels taller than 45 feet must provide notice at least two hours in advance, seven days a week, to pass through the SR 520 drawspan.
  • Requested drawspan openings between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. will occur on the hour and half-hour, with the earliest at 10 a.m. and the latest at 2:30 p.m. Drawspan openings can take up to 30 minutes to complete.

The contractor installing anchors for the future floating bridge and preparing to build a new east highrise will ensure the eastern navigation channel is opened for several major events and holidays when boat traffic is heaviest. The channel opens again for Seafair weekend in August.

The new drawspan opening rules are expected to be in place until August 2015. WSDOT continues to work with vessel pilots and the boating community to minimize highway traffic disruptions. WSDOT uses several tools to give the public as much advance notice as possible when the bridge is scheduled to close to traffic for a drawspan opening:

  • Sign up for email/text message alerts to be notified when a drawspan opening is scheduled.
  • Electronic message signs on highways approaching SR 520 list the scheduled time for the closure, allowing drivers to plan for delays or choose an alternate route.
  • On weekdays and when possible after hours and on weekends, updated information is posted on the WSDOT What’s Happening Now construction page.
  • Updated information is posted on the WSDOT traffic and travel alert web pages.
  • Follow WSDOT on Twitter: @wsdot_traffic for Puget Sound traffic.
  • Updated information via WSDOT’s 511 information line in advance on weekdays and during a closure at night and on weekends.

The target for opening the new floating bridge to traffic is the end of 2014. The completed floating bridge will not include a drawspan but will have an eastern navigation channel able to accommodate vessels 70 feet tall. Information about the SR 520 floating bridge project is online.

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