The U.S. Coast Guard plans to limit Palm Beach bridge openings again this season when President Donald Trump is in town to stay at his Mar-a-Lago club.
The Flagler Memorial Bridge and Royal Park Bridge openings will reduce from twice an hour to once an hour during weekday afternoons from Sept. 1 to Feb. 27 when Trump visits the island, according to a document scheduled to be published Thursday on the Federal Register. The Coast Guard will test the change for 180 days to determine whether it will become permanent while Trump is in office.
“This deviation is necessary to reduce traffic congestion and ensure the safety of the roadways, while meeting the needs of waterways users, whenever the President of the United States, members of the First Family, or other persons under the protection of the Secret Service are present or expected to be visiting Mar-a-Lago,” the notice states.
The same changes were put in place last season following Trump’s first two visits to Palm Beach, which caused major traffic jams on the island.
Mayor Gail Coniglio and town officials met with the Secret Service, Coast Guard and Florida Department of Transportation following those visits and asked for changes to bridge openings to help alleviate gridlock.
“This is an extension of the modified traffic plan with POTUS protocol that was established last spring,” she said.”This is in essence just a continuation of that in preparation of the president. We look forward to maintaining traffic in the Town of Palm Beach as efficiently and as smoothly as possible.”
During Trump’s nine visits last season, traffic regularly would back up on County Road, Cocoanut Row and Royal Palm Way as drivers made their way to the north and middle bridges because the Southern Boulevard Bridge closes when the president’s motorcade is in transit. Drawbridge openings further delayed traffic.
The following openings scheduled to take effect:
Flagler Memorial (north) Bridge: Openings once per hour on the quarter hour weekdays from 2:15 to 5:15 p.m. Regular quarter and three-quarter hour openings will resume at 6:15 p.m.
Royal Park (middle) Bridge: Openings once an hour on the half hour weekdays between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. Twice an hour openings on the hour and half hour will resume at 6:30 p.m.
Southern Boulevard (south) Bridge: The bridge will close when the president is in transit but otherwise will keep normal drawbridge opening hours on the quarter and three-quarter hour.
Weekend hours are not affected on any of the bridges.
The Coast Guard is asking the public to weigh in on the temporary changes.
Comments must be submitted at regulations.gov during a 60-day comment period that ends Oct. 16. Writers should include the docket number, which is USCG-2017-0273; should indicate the specific section of the document to which each comment applies; and should provide a reason for each suggestion or recommendation.
For more information, contact Eddie Lawrence at (305) 415-6946 or by email at Eddie.H.Lawrence@uscg.mil.