Drivers fuming from frequent 520 Bridge drawspan openings

SEATTLE -- Hundreds of drivers are livid after rush hour traffic came to a standstill, to allow a sailboat through the 520 bridge draw span. Now a days, the bridge is opening for boats more than ever before.

It used to happen, on average, less than once a month. Right now, it's on a pace of opening once every two days because of construction of the new floating bridge.

The most recent opening at 9 a.m. had drivers fuming.

With nowhere to to drive, commuters took to Twitter sending out messages like: "Occupy this person's boat!" And, "I'm sure the bridge raise during morning peak rush hour was necessary. Hope that yacht owner has a great day."

Plus: "Thanks for not considering what blocking water traffic would do."

David Gellman voiced his frustrations on Facebook. He wrote, "Annual physical this morning. I'm fasted for glucose test and starving and pissed off and stuck in traffic that hasn't moved for 25 minutes."

He is one of the thousands of toll-paying 520 drivers who must deal with a new reality. Bridge construction blocks the eastern navigational channel, and that means boats taller than 45 feet have nowhere to go but through the draw span. The only times the bridge won't open for boats: 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.

"These are negotiated hours we negotiate with the Coast Guard," explained WSDOT's Dave Becher. "And there's a compromise. People are going to be inconvenienced. It's not just the motorists. The boaters don't have that free run of the lake as well."

Not many drivers have sympathy for marine traffic when a single boat stops so many people.

"I don't think it's a good balance of needs to have the bridge open for one boat," said Gellman.

And another person on Twitter wrote: "The new rules seem unaware of the needs of a large number of commuters. Maybe they need revising."

That could happen.

The DOT is keeping track of how many times the bridge opens and how long the delays last. Workers will meet with the Coast Guard in the coming weeks and could revise the allowed opening times.

For Memorial Day weekend and other busy travel holidays, construction equipment will pull away from the eastern navigational channel, freeing up space for traffic on the water and the road.

And drivers can sign up for email or text alerts from WSDOT to get advance notice of bridge openings.