Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer called on federal officials yesterday to stop raising the drawspan of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge for recreational boaters.
Sailboats, cruise ships and other pleasure craft are the single largest user of the drawspan, which opens more than 400 times a year.
Schaefer's request, contained in a letter sent to President Bush, is the most restrictive policy of any proposed to deal with the recent rash of electrical problems that have twice left the drawspan stuck open, causing long delays for Capital Beltway drivers crossing the Potomac River.
"It is not reasonable to expose our interstate traffic . . . to major disruptions simply to allow visiting sailboats the pleasure of sailing the Potomac River north of Alexandria," Schaefer wrote.
Coast Guard officials said they probably could not go along with Schaefer's request.
"I've never seen a requirement like that for a waterway used by recreational traffic," said Ann Deaton, the Coast Guard bridge administrator for the district that includes Maryland and Virginia.
The idea of having a drawbridge, she said, is to open it to allow vessels to pass if they cannot clear the bridge, which is 50 feet above the water.
"Given the fact he's governor of a state with 150,000 recreational boats, I would expect him to be more sensitive to the needs of waterway traffic," said Michael Sciulla, vice president of the Alexandria-based Boat Owners Association of the United States.
Schaefer also asked that commercial ships be restricted to using the drawbridge between midnight and 4 a.m., the same plan being advanced by District and Alexandria officials.
Unlike the other proposals, however, Schaefer's does not have a fixed time limit, suggesting that he is calling for a permanent ban on openings for recreational craft. Schaefer administration officials were not available yesterday to discuss the letter.