Bridge openings irk 520 bridge commuters



Posted on May 24, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Updated Thursday, May 24 at 6:28 PM

There were a lot of angry 520 bridge commuters Thursday morning as the state opened the draw span to allow a single sailboat through.

Cars were backed up for miles on the bridge for 35 to 45 minutes at the tail end of the morning commute.

Photos starting pouring into Commuters wanted to know why a sailboat was allowed to pass at a time when many drivers are still on their way to work.

"It was a real pain," said commuter Jim Paulsen. "This morning I was headed to the bridge, and I saw the sign and I had to go all the way to I-90."

Why is this happening? The bridge openings are the result of the construction work to replace the floating bridge. Boats up to 64 feet tall can no longer clear the eastern navigation channel because it's blocked by construction equipment.

There are no bridge openings from 6:00am to 9:00 am from from 4:00pm to 7:00pm.

The Washington Department of Transportation said the two windows where no openings occur are a compromise with the Coast Guard, which has the final say on navigation rules.

"To have a bridge out there, we need a permit from the Coast Guard and we must maintain a navigable waterway," said Dave Becher, the 520 construction manager.

There are some exceptions for big holidays, including this weekend, the Fourth of July, and Seafair. During those times, the state will remove the construction equipment to allow passage through the eastern navigation channel.

The state will send texts and emails to warn drivers of scheduled bridge openings. Sign up here for the alerts.