From Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog Editor
Lots of new information today in the fourth week of camera surveillance on the West Seattle Low Bridge.
Use has been restricted since the high bridge was closed on March 23rd. Seattle Police Department were regularly in the area to enforce the restrictions, but a new state law allowed the city to resume automated enforcement and two cameras were turned on on Jan. 11.
A subcommittee of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force has met more than a dozen times to review and discuss current and future low bridge guidelines. Member of the subcommittee Lora Radford of West Seattle Junction Association had a conversation with us this morning with SDOTs Meghan Shepard.
Shepard said traffic on the low bridge has decreased by about a quarter since the cameras were activated for automatic enforcement.
It also confirmed what a WSB comment revealed last weekend – even though the city had announced there would be no grace period, the “first few weeks” resulted in warnings being sent to those who broke the rules and none 75 dollar quotes. “Several hundred” violations were recorded daily, Shepard said.
What they learn about traffic patterns, when enforcement is in place, enables them to decide whether to relax bridge restrictions and / or add new user groups. This week SDOT is adding a user group – health care workers on call who need to respond quickly to a facility across the river. In this situation, if someone uses the low bridge and receives a quote, they can drop it via a special process:
Shepard said they weren’t sure how many people will be affected, so they started a survey and Q&A sessions to get a feel for this. The next potential group would be patients crossing the river for potentially life-saving treatment. According to Shepard, this will be difficult to define so for starters you will be in an informational mode with no timeline of when this might happen. With regard to other user groups or extended opening hours for Open Access (currently 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. seven days a week), she said that changes “are always on the table”.
For the moment there remain those who are allowed to use the bridge:
If you are a West Seattle company and you think you should qualify, you can contact the WSJA or West Seattle Chamber of Commerce if you are a member of an organization or via email [email protected] unless. WSJA, for example, has 84 vehicles on its list; According to Shepard, the access list is evaluated monthly. It goes to the manufacturer of the enforcement camera, Verra, to separate the permitted vehicles from the violations.
They will continue to “reserve” capacity on the low bridge for trucks which they will use when Terminal 5’s north wharf opens for cargo use as early as June. How many trucks are expected? According to Shepard, the original numbers used to calculate capacity come from the Environmental Impact Statement for the T-5 modernization project and are currently evaluating new numbers just received from the port.
More low-bridge updates are expected when the full WSBCTF meets next week – Thursday, February 11th, 4pm (see link to view).