My name is Cheri Gerstenberger and I am the chair for he Hood Canal Bridge Committee that was formed by PLVC a little over a year ago.

The purpose of the committee was to investigate the possibility of any action we could pursue that could help alleviate traffic congestion due to multiple bridge openings.

To quote the Guide to Understanding the Openings & Closings of the Hood Canal Bridge on the Westharbor Homes website: “The average number of vehicles recorded by Hood Canal video cams in nearly 15,000, and on the weekend, that number is closer to 19,000.  The majority of the trips are made by Port Ludlow and Port Townsend residents.  During the week, one third of those travelers use it for work, while weekend trips are mostly recreational, according to a survey given to area residents”.

Two main ideas were formed:

  1. To ask WSDOT if they would extend the current exemption that is in place: May 22 to September 30 between the hours of 3:00 – 6:15 p.m.; to include a morning exemption between the hours of 6:00 – 9 a.m. or 7 – 10:00 a.m. (note that the current exemption went into effect in 2012).
  2. Require that vessels (mainly sailboats) use the 55-foot vertical clearance of the East span instead of requesting a bridge opening, with the tide planning a factor on any given day.

A request was therefore sent to Danny McReynolds, Bridge Management Specialist, U.S. Coast Guard.  He responded suggesting we collect data, further stating that a rule change process can take up to a year.

To quote: All draw bridges operate via an approved USCG regulated rule in the Code of Federal Regulations.  Any time a change is made, the law is being changed.  That process is a legal process, and a drawn out method is required. We cannot just add a time a bridge will not open for marine traffic.  Even if we could, the marine public would have their chance to object or recommend some information through public notice.

Therefore, to address idea #2- pleasure craft vessels, we contracted aWSDOT employee on duty by calling the reservation line and spoke to her about our idea.  She informed us that generally most WSDOT employees do advise mariners to use the East Span if possible, but due to current marine law, they can’t require it.

This was encouraging news, as I was not aware that this was occurring.

My focus then went to pursuing idea #1 – adding an early morning exemption.  I therefore tracked all WSDOT texts that were deemed a pleasure craft opening between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. from May 22 to September 30, based on the one-hour notification.  Military openings to not provide advance notification due to security measures.

Results

A total of 14 pleasure craft openings occurred before noon, however none were before 8:00 a.m. Most openings were approximately 30 minutes.  This is due to the fact that typically only a partial opening is needed and therefore is shorter in duration.  An additional 21 openings occurred between the hours of 8:15 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. believed to be military.

I therefore concluded that based on this data a request made to WSDOT was not justified.

In addition, I would like to note that Westharbor Homes (who I referred to earlier) has an excellent website that includes a “Guide to Understanding the Openings and Closing of the Hood Canal Bridge”.

Thank you to the PLVC for supporting this committee, of which I plan to retire.  Thank you,

Cheri Gerstenberger
The Hood Canal Bridge Openings Ad-Hoc Committee has been disbanded.