Alert! SR 520 bridge openings – getting information to you faster, better

Update:  We've worked with the Coast Guard to change the  rules of the bridge opening times.  They are now prohibited between 6:30 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays

by guest blogger Jamie Holter

As you probably know, we are building a new SR 520 bridge parallel and to the north of the existing bridge. If you don’t know that, stop here and take a moment to check out that story. That’s okay. We’ll wait.

To build the bridge, our contractor crews are working in the water and blocking the east navigation channel, the channel used by boats between 45 and 64 feet tall to travel from one side of the bridge to the other. During construction (through 2015), these boats must pass through the SR 520 drawspan to get to the other side. Yes, we must open the drawspan for these boats, it’s not an option.

We did work out an agreement with the Coast Guard to prevent drawspan openings during the peak commute (6a – 9a and 4p – 7p).

We alert drivers with yellow flashing lights and overhead signs and we do send out a press release when we are inside that one hour window of an opening, but we’ve been hearing through our WSDOT twitter feed that you’d like more warning, maybe even warnings sent to your phone so you can plan ahead and leave early to beat the boat.

Done! We’ve spent the last few days working out the bugs on a new automated alert system that will send a text message to your phone or email when we are within that one or two-hour window of a bridge opening. Just go to our email alert system page and choose SMS/Text from the drop down menu, punch in your phone number (or email if that’s what you like) and sign up for the new alert called “SR 520 Bridge Opening”. Voila! Done. You will get a text message sent to your phone or email with the closure time and date.

For long range planners, we post all our scheduled bridge openings on our marine page and our What’s Happening Now page. People tell us the What’s Happening Now page is very useful because it just has the big closures in the greater Seattle/Bellevue area.

We do know some folks are frustrated with the bridge openings and we do know some want those “do not open” times expanded, but we’re working within current Coast Guard guidelines and it’s not in the cards.  We’re trying to balance the needs of boat traffic, rubber tire traffic and construction work. It tough, but we’re all looking forward to the new beautiful floating bridge as soon as December 2014.