State transportation officials and the Coast Guard are extending the hours in which drawspan openings on the State Route 520 floating bridge will be prohibited.
The Washington State Department of Transportation announced new rules will prevent the drawspan from being opened between 6:30 and 10 a.m. and between 3 and 7 p.m. on weekdays. That’s a half-hour longer in the morning and an hour longer in the afternoon.
The reason for the frequent drawspan openings is due to barges being used for construction of the new floating bridge. The barges block the eastern navigation channel, preventing boats over 45-feet tall from using it. The only way they can get through is to have the drawspan opened, an operation that usually takes a half-hour.
The frequent drawspan openings have created a sore spot for drivers, some of whom are still upset over bridge tolls that went into effect last December.
“These revised rules reflect the feedback we received from drivers and updated traffic data,” said SR 520 Program Director Julie Meredith.
“These updated rules will help minimize disruption to the morning and afternoon commutes without adversely affecting boaters,’ said Coast Guard Bridge Administrator Randall Overton.
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.
WSDOT says the eastern channel will be open for major events and holidays when boat traffic is heaviest, including Seafair weekend.
The drawspan opening rules are expected to remain in place for three more years.
Boaters with vessels up to 45-feet tall can still use the western navigation channel.