All I can say is: About time!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006
By Christine Harvey

The Causeway Commission could decide as soon as next month to raise the nighttime speed limit on the bridge's southbound span to 65 mph, reversing a decision it made more than three years ago to keep the limit at 55 mph.

Raising the speed limit would shave four minutes off the average 24-mile commute.

Robert Lambert, the bridge's general manager, suggested Tuesday that the commission consider adding lights to the rises on the older southbound span, which, in turn, would eliminate the need for the lower speed limit. The rises, where boats pass beneath the bridge, cause a shorter line of sight in five places on the southbound span.

Commissioner Eric Skrmetta asked Lambert to research the cost of lighting the rises as well as what would be required to put the lights in place, then return the matter to the commission in the form of a motion.

Lambert said he would submit the information to the members before next month's meeting, giving them a chance to digest the details before they take a vote.

The commission considered adding lights to the southbound rises in September 2004 when it raised the speed limit to 65 mph on the northbound span and during daylight hours on the southbound span. However, commissioners balked at spending an estimated $1.3 million to do the work.

Lambert would not offer a guess Tuesday as to what it might cost to light the rises today, saying the price of labor and materials has skyrocketed since Hurricane Katrina.

While he said he hasn't received any complaints about the lower speed limit on the southbound span at night, Lambert said it's his job to know what the commuters want. He added that the number of accidents on the bridge went down after the commission raised the speed limit to 65 mph.