Coast Guard considers changes to James River Bridge lift schedule

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – Del. Rick Morris (R) of Carrollton wants to eliminate lifts at the James River Bridge during rush hour traffic. Currently, it opens by vessel demand, including during 6-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m.

VDOT recently completed a study of traffic on the bridge and forwarded it to the Coast Guard for review.

“The average daily cars is about 30,000 cars a day. Thirty-four percent of those cars are during rush hour traffic,” Morris said.

The study shows the bridge opened on demand more than 450 times in 2015.  About a quarter of those lifts happened during weekday rush hour, the study said.

“The estimated cost impact is $1.3 million dollars to businesses and folks commuting themselves. If we can just one, help alleviate the economic impact, but also try to help folks get home, get back to their families, I think that would be a great thing,” Morris said.

Morris said the goal is striking a balance between the economic impact to mariners, local businesses, and commuters. The Coast Guard will look at the potential impact on the maritime transportation system, said Lt. Cmdr. Krystyn Pecora, external affairs officer for the Fifth Coast Guard District. The public will have a chance to comment on the proposal, she said.

Driver Terry Hawkesworth is already supportive of the move.

“If they can, I don’t see why not. It’d be a great idea. I think it’s better to do it so there’s not so much traffic, and then you get an accident and it makes it even worse, so I think it’d be a great idea, if they can do it,” he said.

Kenny Crofton, of Crofton Construction Services, which has crews on a barge working near this bridge, said they would like to come and go as they please, but they’re sensitive to the need to keep vehicles moving. WAVY News left a message with the Virginia Pilot Association and has contacted the Port of Virginia for comment on the proposal.

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