Lift Bridge changes

From MinnPost:

Duluth considering new lift bridge plan that would limit openings for small vessels

Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge may be in for a new schedule that will mean small boats may have to wait.

15 Comments

Shane

about 12 years ago

Will the Vista fleet be considered a small vessel this time around? The same thing was tried a few years back.

dlhmn

about 12 years ago

Answer to the Vista Fleet question and more information here: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/165648/

Shane

about 12 years ago

Last time around they didn't have the Vista "Fleet" (can two boats be considered a fleet?) as part of the plan.  The bridge raised on the hour and half hour for the sailboats and on the quarter hours for the Vista fleet. The net result was the bridge going up and down every 15 minutes. Hopefully things will work better this time around.

Tony D.

about 12 years ago

Past lifting restrictions didn't work out too well, as this excerpt from my book Crossing the Canal: An Illustrated History of Duluth's Aerial Bridge, explains:

In 1970 the city installed a new emergency engine for the Aerial Lift Bridge to replace its back-up gasoline engines. Bridge Supervisor Bob Brown explained that the batteries had worn down prematurely due to overuse of the bridge by pleasure craft. Brown reported that in July 1970, 1,588 vessels passed under the bridge. "Of that number," Brown said, "552 passages were for the excursion boats Flame and Flamingo, which constituted 35 percent of all traffic. Sailboats and other small craft made up another 404 passages or 25 percent of the lifts. The only reason the batteries had lasted as long as they had was because former Bridge Supervisor Al Hass switched to distilled water in the batteries ten years earlier. On top of the additional boat traffic, the bridge experienced increased automobile traffic, with 119,000 vehicles crossing the bridge that June alone. Besides the new batteries and back-up engine, canal traffic had to be limited to extend the bridge's life, Brown argued. One possible solution would be to limit lifts by establishing "bridge hours"—a limit on the hours the bridge would raise for anything but "essential marine traffic." The Coast Guard agreed with him. It sent a notice to mariners that the Guard "will support owners of drawbridges who refuse to open their bridges for vessels capable of sailing beneath the structure." The same would apply to the lift bridge. Boat owners were encouraged to take down antennas, fishing rigs, false smoke stacks, or anything else that could be easily removed to lower a craft's height to clear the road span's bottom. Not only were the pleasure boats wearing out the bridge and causing unnecessary delays, they were delaying larger vessels that needed the canal. Two years later the problem remained. The Park Point Community Club took up the cause, telling the newspaper that the bridge was being "abused." Residents were sick of unnecessarily being "bridged," a popular Duluth term for being stuck in traffic waiting for the bridge to raise and lower. Many Park Pointers were still thrilled by the sight of a thousand-foot ore boat passing under the bridge, but few cared much for other craft. They had long ago learned to ride out the wait by keeping a book in the car to read, and Park Pointers always have an excuse if late: "I got bridged" is enough for any other Duluthian to understand the delay. By 1972, Brown's argument hadn't changed much. In 1971 the bridge lifted 5,873 times, 1,700 for the Flame and Flamingo—both of which, according to Brown, sported "needlessly long radio antennas and false smokestacks." At an estimated cost to the city of $23 per lift, those two vessels alone placed a burden of $39,000 on Duluth taxpayers. Despite the hullabaloo, officials never put "bridge hours" into place. Not that the perception of excursion boats making the bridge raise unnecessarily ever changed. Tom Mackay, longtime Park Point resident and captain of the Vista Fleet, told reporters in 2005 that "People have cussed at me from their cars. I've had people threaten to fire a shot across my bow the next time I cause a delay." The Park Point Community Club made another effort to establish "bridge hours" in the mid-1990s. With the Coast Guard's consent, the bridge raised and lowered just once every half hour. But after a year the Coast Guard considered the experiment a failure, and the bridge returned to lifting on an as-needed basis.

natalie

about 12 years ago

Yay! I'm so glad they've decided to try this again. I can recall one summer driving back in from the point and coming to a stop at the first little beach after the bridge due to boat traffic. No biggie. But between that and finally crossing the canal we waited an additional two more times for the bridge to lift due to pleasure sailors. Grr ... completely annoying.

Claire

about 12 years ago

I don't mind waiting for the Bridge to go back down, b/c I carry a book with me everywhere -- but I really miss the Fog Horn. I wish they'd bring it back.

Patsy

about 12 years ago

The key to traveling on and off Park Point is always keep reading material in your vehicle!  That saved me when I lived down there.  I have heard they're only running one boat in the Vista Fleet this season, so that will lessen traffic and make this new plan work better, I'm sure.

Tony D.

about 12 years ago

Sorry, Claire, but that's another Eric Ringsred issue. Ringsred purchased the horn and organized TOOT to operate it. But that organization neglected it, expected the City  and Coast Guard to maintain it, and then dismantled it in 2006 rather than pay the $15,000 required to rewire it after the Coast Guard found it unreasonable supply the power (it required special three-phase electric power, and no other canal device did, so it made no sense for the Coast Guard to pay for and maintain that feed). I believe TOOT later sold the horn.

(There's a much more complete explanation in "Crossing the Canal," but I won't take up space with another huge comment.)

hbh

about 12 years ago

I can reduce it to one word: spite.

Sam

about 12 years ago

If the small boats know the schedule, they can easily plan around it.  It goes up and down every half-hour, so that shouldn't be too bad.  And it will save money for the city and time for the drivers (who will also find crossing the bridge more predictable).  

Sounds like a no brainer to me to make this change.  If the boats want in an out whenever they want, they can go to the Superior entrance to the harbor, which isn't far.  If they want to go through the Duluth entrance, they just have to plan a little.

baci

about 12 years ago

As a sailboat pilot I'll chime in. I've always found it an empowering thing to be able to have the bridge go up and down at my request. Makes up for getting bridged for so many years. I've always also thought that it was a luxury that I probably should not enjoy. Now, I employ good harbor sense and bridge-equette and try to time my stab out into the lake along with others in or outbound small craft. Usually works well and I feel better about not "wasting" city resources with a solo lift. I'm really OK with this new idea but I will miss the ability to get on the radio and ask for a lift and hear the bridge operator say "You bet Captain, hang tight."

Claire

about 12 years ago

Tony, now I have to read your book!

Tony D.

about 12 years ago

Claire: What? You haven't already? Oh, the pain and humiliation....

adam

about 12 years ago

The Flame and Flamingo. Ahh, the gay 70s.

edgeways

about 12 years ago

I'd totally ride a boat called the Flaming Flamingo

Leave a Comment

Only registered members can post a comment , Login / Register Here

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Read previous post:
Duluth’s Graffiti Graveyard

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAnghwJorvo Video by Nathan Treanor.

Close