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VIDEO: Coast Guard seeks limits on bridge openings in South Carolina

Motorists won't have to stop as much for openings of a major South Carolina barrier island swing bridge, but operators of large recreational vessels might have to find a new route.

The Coast Guard is planning a trial run in April to limit the number of large boats that pass through the Richard V. Woods Memorial Bridge in tourist destination Beaufort, S.C.

Known locally as the Woods Bridge, the swing bridge connects downtown Beaufort with Lady's Island and the outer Sea Islands in Beaufort County. Because of the presence of the Intracoastal Waterway, the bridge is required to open frequently for boat traffic to pass through.

Details of the trial period are pending from officials with the Coast Guard bridge division in Miami. However, local officials believe it will include restrictions on the hours when non-commercial vessels can pass through.

"If it's a commercial vessel, it's one thing, but if it's a pleasure boat, it's another," city interim manager Bill Prokop told The Beaufort Gazette.

Log-book records show that the swing bridge opened nearly 4,000 times during a two-year period, with 660 of those for commercial boats.

In October, Beaufort County and Beaufort city officials sent a letter to the Coast Guard bridge branch requesting a change in when and why the bridge opens, county engineering director Rob McFee said. The vehicle traffic delays cause an estimated $2 million loss annually for the community because of lost time and other economic factors, the letter said.

County and city officials requested restrictions on the passage of non-commercial boats during daytime rush hours.

"Not only do the drawbridge openings affect daily traffic and local economics, it also has a dramatic effort on emergency response. A revision in the opening schedule could potentially resolve many of the resulting daily impacts," the letter stated, according to the paper.

You can see the swing bridge in action as it opens to allow a sailboat through.

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