SW’s Letter to the Coast Guard: Keep The Damn Bridges Down Longer!

Steven Fischer

U.S. Coast Guard District 13 Bridge Administrator

915 Second Ave., Suite 3510

Seattle, WA 98174

Dear Mr. Fischer:

Last week, we wrote about the hell that is 15th Avenue – and lots of other surrounding roadways, too, – when, in particular, the Ballard Bridge goes up in the heat of rush hour. We pointed out that with increasing regularity the bridge rises only minutes after 6 p.m., the hour of motorized bedlam, but which marine traffic is allowed by federal law the right of way.

One evening – and sadly, we were on the scene to observe the outrage – the gates came lumbering down and the unwelcome alarm sounded at 6:03, as if mocking us. Forty-four feet below, two sailboats made their way under the up righted structure, Seattle Weekly recounted this affront, this insult to our dignity as hardworking drivers seeking the refuge of home.

By the time the 96-year-old bridge made its descent, we wrote, “Our merry pleasure-seekers, wind in their hair (life without care) were happily on the way toward Puget Sound” – leaving in their wake pure unadulterated gridlock for the rest of us.

Needless to say, the story resonated with a lot of our readers who apparently share our disdain (and sheer amazement) that steps have not been taken to recognize today’s realities that Seattle’s rush hour extends well beyond 6 – and that perhaps something can and should be done about it.

Note to commercial fishermen: We’ll happily break for you; it’s the sailboats who ought to chill. Why should one solitary sailor be able to tie up traffic for miles?

Anyway, Mr. Fischer, you patiently explained to us that not only can the city, or the Washington State Department of Transportation, make a request to augment bridge hours – which neither the city nor WSDOT have done – but that even citizens, which presumably means journalists, can ask for long overdue, commonsensical changes.

Well, we’re taking you up on your offer in which Coast Guard regulation 117.8 clearly states: “Anyone may submit a written request to the District Commander for a permanent change to a drawbridge operating requirement. The request must include documentation supporting or justifying the requested change.”

We are requesting that the Ballard Bridge (we can address other city bridges down the road) remain closed until at least 6:30 on weeknights, beginning as soon as possible. Just a half-hour later. Is that too much to ask?

Here’s the documentation, the hard, unmistakable facts: After countless trips heading northward on 15th Avenue at around 6 p.m., we have noticed that traffic is horrific. It crawls, it hobbles, it creeps. You know this. All of Seattle knows this.

And it grows worse, and, short of unemployment reaching Great Depression levels or until all the polar ice caps melt, it will continue to worsen, no matter how many more bike lanes or buses are imposed.

So can you guess, Mr. Fischer, what happens when the bridge goes up at, say, 6:03?

That’s right, paralysis.

Is complete paralysis enough to justify the requested change?

We look forward to your response.

Thanks in advance.

Warm regards,

Ellis Conklin

Seattle Weekly

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