Rush-hour lifts could end at JRB

Published 9:57 pm Monday, March 14, 2016

Getting stuck in traffic because of James River Bridge lifts during rush hour may soon be a problem of the past.

The U.S. Coast Guard is evaluating a Virginia Department of Transportation study of traffic flow across the James River Bridge, said Delegate Rick Morris, whose district includes Carrollton and parts of Suffolk.

The Coast Guard is reviewing VDOT’s study and will hold a public comment period. The dates for the public to weigh in have not been set, Morris said.

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Morris has asked the Coast Guard to ban bridge lifts during the peak travel hours of 6-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The only exemption would be for marine traffic heading to Fort Eustis, Morris said.

“Military shipping would not be impacted. If they need a lift, they get it,” said Morris. “Sixty percent of the shipping traffic requiring lifts is going to Fort Eustis.”

According to Morris, the VDOT study showed that approximately 10,000 of the 29,000 vehicles that have crossed the bridge daily for the past five years travel during the rush hours. The James River Bridge opened on demand 452 times in 2015, with 25 percent — 116 of those openings — occurring during the weekday morning and afternoon rush hours, Morris said.

VDOT estimates the delays from the rush hour lifts in 2015 cost the public $1.29 million in lost time, wasted fuel and vehicle operating costs, Morris said.

Morris said the Coast Guard has told him it will implement a trial period after the public comment period closes.

“I’ve been hearing about this issue from folks in Isle of Wight for a couple of years,” Morris said, adding that he contacted the Coast Guard in August 2015 about the issue. “I’m hoping we will have a better lift schedule by summer.”

Efforts to reach a Coast Guard spokesperson were unsuccessful.