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Proposed Estuary Bridge Changes Make Big Waves With Sailors

A proposal from Alameda County Public Works to save money by reducing the hours worked by bridge-tenders on estuary bridges is making waves with boaters in Alameda.

The proposal from the County would reduce vessel access through the estuary from “on demand 24 hours per day” to “on demand 8 hours per day.” It would also increase advance notice requirements for boaters looking for the bridges to be lifted as they sail west through the estuary to the open San Francisco Bay. The County estimates the move would save about $600,000 per year, by reducing labor costs for bridge tenders, the operators that respond to vessel requests and push the buttons to lift the bridges.

In a presentation provided by Alameda County Public Works, the County indicates that the Park Street, High Street, and Miller-Sweeney and railroad bridges cost about $2.6 million annually to operate. The funds come from Measure B, federal reimbursement and the County road fund.

Summary of Proposed Bridge Regulation Changes

Stefan Hofmeyer, who is a member of the Aeolian Yacht Club at the northern foot of the Bay Farm Island Bridge, but speaking for himself, told Action Alameda News, “Impacts to bridge service will be significant. For Alameda residents, bridge staff will no longer be consistently on-site to watch over the bridges after 4:30 p.m., increasing the potential around the bridges for crime and vandalism, and reducing safety for pedestrians and boaters. Reduced emergency response for such events as earthquakes must also be taken into consideration.

“For specific groups, the result is devastating, especially for the 104 year old Aeolian Yacht Club which will lose membership and berthing revenues as a result of the reduction in bridge service. For homeowners with docks on the estuary, house values will decrease due to lack of immediate access to the bay, eating into Alameda’s tax base.”

Mr. Hofmeyer also said that the County is taking advantage of a reduction in maritime bridge traffic over the last two years due to the economy to press the proposal. The presentation from Public Works asserts that bridge openings have declined 33% in total number from 2005 to 2009. According to the data, openings declined 27% from 2007 to 2009.

Rick Ruiz, Deputy Director for the Alameda County Public Works Agency told Action Alameda News that the U.S. Coast Guard, as part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, really has the final say on the proposal. Mr. Ruiz says that Coast Guard has not yet submitted the proposed changes to the Federal Register and that the Coast Guard can make their own adjustments to the proposal. Once the Coast Guard submits the proposal to the Register, the public has ninety days to comment on it. Ruiz said that Alameda County cannot accept public comment because the Coast Guard has authority over the bridges, and comment should be directed to the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard island, in the estuary just west of the three affected bridges, is home to the Guard’s Pacific Area, 11th District Command.

3 comments to Proposed Estuary Bridge Changes Make Big Waves With Sailors

  • Barb

    It sounds like more people will be losing their jobs.
    Why not install a set of survillance cameras set up at the Alameda Police Station if vandalism beomes a problem? (Just like the kids who hang out by the bike bridge) See if any of the former bridgetenders would be willing to work on call – for a fee as you go) by the Yacht clubs. If not get a couple of persons from the interested yacht clubs to take the necessary training, and do the job- only as needed annd paid for by the users who request lifting of the bridges.

  • cabforles

    These are county bridges it is there responability to maintain.
    The Sheriffs has a large patrol boat that they keep here in Alameda, it sits there at the end of grand street.

  • The County says they are running out of money…. property taxes will be down again this year. Over 11,000 re-assessments last year, and the tax assessor is reviewing properties again this year.