Bridges to Remain Staffed Overnight
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Dennis Evanosky

A relic of the boat destroyed in the blaze that razed Tiki Tom’s restaurant last October pokes its bow from the Oakland Estuary. The Miller-Sweeney Bridge in the background is one of the three bridges that will remain staffed overnight. After-hours staffing of the Park Street Bridge allowed the Oakland Fire Department’s fireboat Sea Wolf access to the three-alarm restaurant fire, which broke out at 11:13 p.m., on Oct. 7.

The U.S. Coast Guard announced last week that it is no longer considering Alameda County's request to eliminate nighttime staffing of the drawbridges that span the Oakland Estuary at High Street, Fruitvale Avenue-Tilden Way and Park Street. The Coast Guard says that it is responding to public input about the effects of not having the bridges staffed overnight. "The request is being withdrawn because of the opposing comments received from the various sources including the primary waterway users that transit the drawbridges," the Coast Guard stated in the Wednesday, Jan. 26, Federal Register. Alameda County operates the bridges and the county's taxpayers foot the bill — some $600,000 a year — to staff the bridges. The Coast Guard regulates waterway traffic throughout the United States and had to give the county permission before the bridges could close to shipping between 4:30 p.m. and 9 a.m., except with four hours advance notice. Pointing out that traffic on the Estuary had declined over the past years, the Alameda County Public Works Department wanted to whittle down the hours it had to staff the bridges as a cost-cutting move. Boaters using the Estuary and those who depend on the waterway for their bread and butter protested. They told the county and Coast Guard that the cutback in hours would jeopardize their well being and hurt their businesses. The Fernside Homeowners Association, the Aeolian Yacht Club, Aroma Restaurant, and Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon were among the opponents to eliminating the staffing the Coast Guard listed in its decision. Opponents to reduced staffing also pointed out that overnight staffing of the Park Street Bridge allowed the Oakland Fire Department's fireboat Sea Wolf access to Tiki Tom's — located just south to the bridge — when the restaurant burned on Oct. 7.

 

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