(Photo: Todd Boulanger)
Yesterday we received information from a reader that the gates on the I-5 bridge sidewalk had malfunctioned, staying closed for over 30 minutes on Wednesday night and blocking access across the bridge for people on bikes and on foot.
That reader, Todd Boulanger, has since been contacted by Kimberly Dinwiddie at ODOT Community Affairs. Dinwiddie says the gate closure wasn’t a malfunction, but that bridge engineers decided to keep them closed due to a passing vessel and traffic on a railroad bridge downstream.
Read more about ODOT’s protocol for bridge closures and what happened Wednesday in Dinwiddie’s follow-up below:
Thanks for writing Todd. I am sorry you and others were delayed while traveling over the Interstate Bridge yesterday.
Please allow me to give a brief explanation of what happened last night (it wasn’t a gate malfunction) and our protocols for closing the gates prior to a bridge lift.
Yesterday around 6 p.m., a vessel called to the Interstate Bridge requesting a bridge lift. According to maritime law, the vessel has right-of-way and all traffic on the bridge must yield.
When a bridge lift is requested, the first thing we do is close the gates to the pedestrian/bicycle paths. This is for the safety of path users. We want to allow those crossing the bridge to finish their trip and prevent people from entering the path and risk getting caught mid-span as we start to lift the bridge.
We close the gates to vehicle traffic after closing the pedestrian/bicycle gates, shortly before we begin the bridge lift. Obviously, vehicles traveling across the bridge at 50 MPH get across the bridge quickly and do not run the risk of getting stuck mid-span as we begin the bridge lift.
Last night, the bridge lift was delayed for nearly 30-minutes due to traffic on the railroad bridge downstream. At the time, our bridge tenders did not know the length of time the bridge lift was going to be delayed. In anticipation of the bridge lift, the gates to the paths remained closed as you and others experienced.
However, our bridge tender exercised judgment and opened the pedestrian gates on the southbound side three times during the 30-minute bridge lift delay to allow bicycle and pedestrian traffic to cross the bridge.
Again, we apologize for the inconvenience caused by bridge lifts. Right now, the water is quite high on the Columbia River and we will continue to experience a high number of bridge lifts while the water remains
Vessels traveling the Columbia do not always have the right-of-way to the Interstate Bridge. Bridge lifts are restricted at these times: Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., unless it’s a federal holiday. Federal holidays are like weekends; federal law requires us to do bridge lifts whenever they are requested.
ODOT Community Affairs
Now you know.