More limits on when to raise Main Street Bridge?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There's a chance it's happened to you before at one time or another -- trying to drive across the Main Street Bridge only to be stuck in traffic because it's been raised to allow boats to pass through.

Now talks are beginning to add more limits to when the bridge can be raised.

"That would be an answer to a prayer," said one driver stuck trying to cross the bridge Thursday afternoon.

Many believe the raised bridge ties up traffic during big events like Jaguars games and concerts. City officials would like to see specific times posted when the bridge could be raised.

The concerns were relayed to the Jacksonville Waterways Commission, which was also told businesses wanted limits as well.

Councilwoman Lori Boyer talked about the measure at Wednesday's meeting. She said it would be good as long as it is safe for boaters, who might have to wait in rough currents.

"But as long as we can address the public safety issue where that's not a concern, I think there's real merit to having designated opening times for the bridge that take into account special events," Boyer said.

There are already limits, according to federal laws, on when the bridge can't be raised. That includes during rush hour traffic in the mornings and evenings.

But some boaters say there is a safety concern.

"If there are more limits on the bridge, it would be a hassle for boaters at our marina and those down the river," said Scott Howerton. "We try to plan with tides."

Ralph Hubbard runs a charter business with his sailboat and often has to cross under the bridge.

"So limiting the access to it with sailboats with the 60-foot mast is encouraging people not to take advantage of the great resources we have with the St. Johns River," Hubbard said.

Any decision would have to be made by the Coast Guard, which a spokesman said has not been approached.

Waterway Commission members say this is just in the discussion stage and will be addressed later this summer.

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