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The Coast Guard, at the request of the City of Tacoma, proposes to change the regulation which governs the operating schedule of the Murray Morgan Bridge. This temporary deviation will test three separate changes requested by the City of Tacoma.
The first change requires that for bridge openings needed between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., notification be made no later than 8 p.m. prior to the desired opening. This differs from the existing regulation in that presently the bridge is required to open at all times (except during authorized closure periods) provided two hours advance notice is given. This deviation to the regulation which adds the requirement of notification by 8 p.m. for openings between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. is being tested because openings between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. are extremely rare. Over an 18 month period there were only 6 bridge openings requested between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. which averages one bridge opening request per three month period. One of the unique features of the Murray Morgan Bridge is its height above the waterway providing 60 feet of clearance at mean high water (MHW) in the closed position. Because of this vertical clearance the overwhelming majority of vessels which transit this waterway do not require a bridge opening. The majority of bridge openings are for locally moored and operated recreational sailboats with mast heights over 60 feet. Almost all of these vessels are moored at marinas in very close proximity of the bridge.
The second change being tested in this deviation is removing the authorized bridge closure periods in the morning and afternoon. The current regulation states that the draw need not be opened from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, for vessels of less than 1,000 gross tons. This test deviation requires the draw to open at all times with proper advance notification. The morning and afternoon authorized closures of the bridge outlined in the existing regulation were put into place when the bridge was part of SR 509, a continuous route from Northeast Tacoma to downtown, and traffic volumes were approximately 15,000 vehicles per day. In 1997 a new SR 509 was constructed approximately 0.7 miles south of the bridge and is now used as the main traffic corridor. After
The third change being tested in this deviation is principally administrative and changes the contact information for emergency bridge openings. The existing regulation states “In emergencies, openings shall be made as soon as possible upon notification to the Washington State Department of Transportation.” The change being tested in this deviation requires notification for emergency opening to be made to the City of Tacoma. The reason for this change is because Washington State turned over ownership and responsibility of the bridge to the City of Tacoma on January 6, 1998.
Under this temporary deviation the bridge will operate as follows. The draw of the Murray Morgan Bridge, also known as the South 11th Street Bridge, across Thea Foss Waterway, previously known as City Waterway, mile 0.6, at Tacoma, shall open on signal if at least two hours notice is given. However, to obtain a bridge opening between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. notification must be made to the City of Tacoma by 8 p.m. In emergencies, openings shall be made as soon as possible upon notification to the City of Tacoma. The Murray Morgan Bridge is a vertical lift bridge which provides a vertical clearance of 60 feet above mean high water. Vessels which do not require a bridge opening may continue to transit beneath the bridge at any time.
The Coast Guard has issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) under docket number USCG-2012-0911 to receive comments on these changes. Comments can be submitted for this deviation or for the NPRM by following procedures outlined in the SUBMITTING COMMENTS section above.
In accordance with 33 CFR 117.35(e), the drawbridge must return to its regular operating schedule immediately at the end of the designated time period. This deviation from the operating regulations is authorized under 33 CFR 117.35.