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New Pass numbers do not justify changing bridge schedule

Last spring, the town commission urged the manager to see if there was any way to modify the frequency the New Pass Bridge is opened to allow boats to navigate to and from the Gulf.  Last Tuesday, they were told “No.”

To help examine the issue, retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Steve Branham conducted a review of past actions related to bridge opening as well as an analysis of current traffic patterns, bridge opening schedules and frequency of openings.

The data presented did reveal the following New Pass Bridge factoid that during the peak season in March 2015 about 20,000 cars per day traverse the bridge. It also showed that bridge openings takes a total of about seven minutes each and that Since 2003 there has been a steady decline of bridge openings due to the increased shoaling in New Pass and the subsequent shift of boaters opting to go use Longboat Pass on the south end of the Key.

After a Power Point presentation of data which was compiled and graphed with the assistance of key Excel specialist Lenny Landau, the commission was told the bridge only opened on average one time per day.

At the end of his report, Branham said that such a low frequency will not justify requesting any change in schedule with the Coast Guard and he added that on certain days, there has been testing on the bridge and those days create the occasional anomaly where it might be open as much as six times in a 24-hour period.

“It’s hard to convince the Coast Guard there is a problem with once a day openings,” said Branham.

The report and findings seemed to put to rest a possible component the commission was attempting to address to help ameliorate south end traffic.

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