Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler formally asked the U.S. Coast Guard to review its drawbridge lift protocol for the Interstate 5 Bridge on Monday, specifically concerning lifts during rush hour.
Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, voiced her concerns in a letter sent to U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral David Throop.
As it stands now, bridge lifts are restricted between 6:30 and 9 a.m. and 2:30 and 6 p.m. on weekdays to ease the impacts on congestion. But the number of cars crossing the bridge has increased.
In 1995, about 116,500 vehicles crossed the bridge daily. Now that number is closer to 140,000, according to the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council.
That increase in vehicle traffic has extended the evening rush hour to about 1:30 to 7:30 p.m. During rush hour, cars are moving about 9 mph on average.
“Lifts of the drawbridges during the peak traffic hours only serve to compound the challenges the region is experiencing in the movement of traffic and freight across the region,” Herrera Beutler wrote.
The last proposal to address the numerous issues with the I-5 Bridge was the Columbia River Crossing. The bridge was designed with clearances to accommodate most river traffic, and after negotiations with three manufacturers whose largest products wouldn’t fit under the 116-foot threshold, the Coast Guard had given the project its blessing. Herrera Beutler was opposed to the CRC.
“Although the Rivers and Harbors Act gives precedence to navigation traffic over vehicular traffic and multiple stakeholders would need to be involved in any effort to amend the current regulations, practical concerns must also weigh into the balance during this interim period while the region works to reach consensus on a plan for replacement of the two drawbridges,” Herrera Beutler wrote.
Given the seriousness of the situation, Herrera Beutler said, she requests a review by the Coast Guard to determine if an extension on the lift restriction window is warranted.